When the cast came off his right wrist and he saw his healthy, surgically rebuilt wrist for the first time in more than a month, Nick Plummer thought something didn’t look right.
“My arm—it was half the size,” he said. “I was shocked.”
The 21-year-old outfielder also was resolute.
The size to which his forearm shrank as the muscles atrophied reminded the 2015 first-rounder how far he had to go to regain his strength, regain his swing and regain his place in the organization after missing the entire 2016 season.
“I didn’t take a swing for eight months,” Plummer said. “It was new to rest, to restart, and to find that feel again. It was a longer process, but we got it done.”
Plummer appeared in 92 games at low Class A Peoria in 2017 and returned to the Midwest League this season to resume his climb. The lefthanded-hitting Michigan high school product batted .229/.345/.371 with three home runs through his first 43 games.
Plummer’s season was briefly interrupted when he was hit by a pitch and had to be placed on the disabled list. That was a speed bump compared with the surgeries that led to detours in his career. Pain in his right wrist required his hamate bone to be removed, and a short time later he had the cartilage repaired in the same wrist.
That meant from draft day in 2015 to early 2017, he was limited to 51 games and 180 at-bats. When he was back to speed, it took him awhile to find his swing and strength.
That had improved this season.
When the Cardinals drafted him, Plummer arrived with an instinctual feel for the strike zone and patience at the plate. He has built on that foundation. Now he is picking up breaking balls quicker and driving them when they’re in the zone.
Because high school baseball in Michigan plays with the rule that all batters begin an at-bat with a 1-1 count, Plummer said he had to adjust to the speed of the pro game. “It’s just faster, a lot faster,” he said. That and the injuries made his ascent slower.
He sees this year as a chance to play catch up.
“You want that quick transition,” Plummer said, “but I couldn’t control what happened. It’s a process. Keep plugging away and see where it takes you.”
>> Righthander Paul Balestrieri, a 26th-round pick a year ago from Cornell, pitched the 10th no-hitter in Peoria franchise history on June 7. He did not walk a batter and struck out six through nine innings. Balestrieri began the year as a reliever at high Class A Palm Beach but moved into the rotation upon being demoted to Peoria.
>> Shortstop Delvin Perez, the 23rd overall pick in 2016, will open the season at short-season State College after spending several months in extended spring training. Perez, who won’t turn 20 until November, has had the chance to build strength and work on his swing with independent attention this spring.