It’s a lot easier to hit a baseball when swinging the bat with two hands rather than with one. Just ask Edwin Encarnacion, who returned from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday night and proceeded to hit two home runs in his first three at bats, both sailing over Boston’s fabled and towering Green Monster.
Encarnacion suffered a bruised right hand on July 15 when he was struck by pitch against the Yankees. Between the All-Star break (immediately following that game) and with the injury deemed as minor, Encarnacion did not miss time with the hand issue. However, he was not pain-free and admitted to basically swinging the bat one-handed. Somehow, he hit three home runs that way and drove in 16 runs and his batting average even rose from .225 to .229 during his 18 starts as essentially the one-armed man.
On August 10, the pain of swinging with such an unconventional method caught up to the Tribe’s 35-year-old slugger. In his first at bat, he had an awkward looking swing and appeared to favor he walked and stole second base as part of a double steal. After that, Double E complained of bicep soreness and was pulled from the game. Swinging with one arm had put too much stress on his bicep to the point that it was hurting to swing. He was put on the DL, returning 12 days later.
That two weeks away may have been a blessing for Cleveland’s cleanup hitter. It allowed him to finally get over the long-lingering hand bruise and it took care of the biceps pain. Clearly he was feeling better with his two over-the-Monster mashes in his first three at bats. The dingers took his home run total for the season to 27 and raised his RBI number to 85.
It is likely that the pain had been bothering him for a while. While he initially was swinging the bat well after the hand injury, the final handful of games before succumbing to the bicep issue were rough. He had gone 2-for-21 in six games before taking his time off to heal.
Getting his regular power back would be a huge boost for the Indians. For obvious reasons, having the Encarnacion who has his 35-40 homer power in the No. 4 spot is huge. Having that kind of bomber batting cleanup is important for any team. For the Indians, Encarnacion getting back to his regular baseball bashing will mean better pitches for the trio of All-Stars that bat ahead of him in the lineup. That is especially true for No. 3 hitter, third baseman Jose Ramirez.
Ramirez, the club’s home run and RBI leader, has seen less good pitches to hit of late while being intentionally walked more often. That’s because Encarnacion had been struggling and not viewed as enough of a threat to let Ramirez see good pitches to drive. Encarnacion can change that script by making some teams pay for giving J-Ram a free pass by knocking more multi-run bombs out of the park.
Encarnacion being healthy and re-emerging as the power threat that he can be would be big for the Tribe. His absence from most of three games in last year’s ALDS likely played a key role in Ramirez and Francisco Lindor struggling and Cleveland’s early ouster from postseason play. The Yankees could avoid pitching to the Indians’ dynamic duo at the top of the lineup. Likewise, that has been the case over the last few weeks when Encarnacion struggled and then was out of the lineup. The Indians need that threat behind Lindor, Michael Brantley, and Ramirez to get the top three hitters in the order good pitches to do good things with.
If being without their slugger for more than a week means the Indians are getting the true Encarnacion back, then the bicep pain was something of a good thing. He may never have gone on the DL with just the hand injury. Now that he is back and again taking the parrot out for jogs after monster blasts, it can only mean good things for the Tribe and the rest of the lineup.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images