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DENVER – When David Dahl broke his right foot on a foul ball during a May 30 game against San Francisco, he was just beginning to respond to critics questioning his durability.
In 2017, he had missed the entirety of the season except for a mere 19 games in the minors during the summer.
To start the 2018 season, he had been healthy and productive, playing 36 games across a six-week span between Albuquerque and Colorado before his unfortunate injury.
The 2012 1st Rounder laughed off the odd occurrence when speaking to BSN Denver’s Drew Creasman before Monday’s game.
“What can I do about a foul ball breaking my foot? I just play hard and I’ve had some unfortunate injuries, but I always play hard.”
Expected to miss nine weeks on the disabled list, Dahl returned to action ahead of schedule without any residual pain on July 19 for Triple-A Albuquerque before returning to Colorado.
“I don’t think I’d be here if it was still bothering me, but my foot healed pretty quickly. It feels good.”
Dahl was recalled by the Rockies on August 5 and got the start in center field the next day in place of friend and teammate Charlie Blackmon.
“I talk to him a lot about everything—hitting, defense. It’s a tough place to play here. It’s a big outfield, the ball flies. So, you know if you play deep, you can give up a lot of easy singles. If you play a little shallow, you’ll give up extra-base hits. So, it’s one of those things where you’ve got to take a lot of reads in (batting practice) and try to figure it out out there, and just kind of go from there.”
On the offensive side, Dahl has typically contributed at the top of the order for the majority of his career, even utilizing his special combination of speed and power as the leadoff hitter. He’s learned a few things from the Bearded One in that regard as well.
“Leading off, you get four or five or six (at-bats), depending on how we’re hitting. And hopefully, I get a lot because that means we’re swinging well. I just try to have good at-bats, try to be a catalyst, get the offense going. If I get on, I try to look to steal a bag. These are all the things that a lead-off bat can do.”
With a talented 25-man roster at the major league level, as well as a 40-man roster comprised of several gifted players currently starring in Triple-A Albuquerque, Dahl understands he might not get these types of opportunities every day.
“Everyone wants to start, but you know, whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do it. We’re in a playoff hunt, so it’s not about me. It’s about helping the team, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
With a challenging stretch of games for Colorado scheduled for the remainder of the season, manager Bud Black will need to push all the right buttons in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for his club.
Generally made at the mercy of matchups, this type of decision-making will undoubtedly dictate the playing time and opportunities for players like Dahl. If circumstances are such that his role will require him to come off the bench in a big spot, it may be an area of strength for the Alabama native.
“I feel like I’m really good at pinch-hitting actually. I was curious what I was hitting, and I’m actually hitting pretty well in my career pinch-hitting because I just go up there and try to have a good at-bat and not get frustrated to get out because it’s hard. So, just got to go up there and just try to have a good AB.”
When pressed about his approach while pinch-hitting, Dahl was eager to explain his thought process about what makes him so successful.
“I think in pinch-hitting, you’ve got to be aggressive because if you take a first pitch, it happens to get called a strike, second pitch you swing and you foul it off, you’re 0-2. So, I feel like if you can at least get a pitch to hit and foul it off, you at least know what you have that day and can adjust from there. But you know, it’s got to be a strike obviously. I just feel like, yeah, I’m aggressive no matter when I’m hitting, so I try to stay like that.”
With his mindset on outfield defense and approach at the plate, pinch-hitting or otherwise, Dahl has ensured a key role for himself on a Rockies team looking to reach the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.