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David Dahl could boost Rockies’ stalled offense — if he stays healthy — today

Diego Maradona

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The Rock­ies’ offense is like a stub­born, 20-year-old car on a frigid win­ter morn­ing. It needs a jump.

But it doesn’t look like any sig­nif­i­cant help is com­ing via free agency because the team says it does not intend to sign a big-mon­ey free agent. A boost could come via a trade, but that would like­ly mean deal­ing either Nolan Are­na­do or Trevor Sto­ry. That sce­nario is a one-step-for­ward, two-steps-back sce­nario.

There is, how­ev­er, one play­er already on the ros­ter who could poten­tial­ly pro­vide the spark and added pow­er the Rock­ies so des­per­ate­ly need: out­field­er David Dahl.

The impor­tant word here is “poten­tial­ly.” Because Dahl’s sweet swing and con­sid­er­able skills in the out­field have been obscured by his well-doc­u­ment­ed injury prob­lems.

“I know I can be a good play­er,” Dahl, 26, said near the end of a 2020 sea­son marred by an oblique strain and a right shoul­der injury that required surgery. He played in only 24 games with just 99 plate appear­ances, hit­ting .183 (17-for-93) with no home runs, two dou­bles and two triples.

“I know I’ve had suc­cess while I’ve been up here. It’s a mat­ter of avail­abil­i­ty and being out there on the field. But I’ve got to real­ly sit down this off­sea­son and kind of fig­ure out what I need to do as far as fig­ur­ing out my body.”

Man­ag­er Bud Black believes Dahl is on the right track and said the reports he’s received are encour­ag­ing.

“David’s rehab is going smooth­ly and his strength is great,” Black said. “I expect a big bounce­back from David. He’s a big rea­son our offense will turn it around. He’s too tal­ent­ed a play­er not to.”

Colorado’s offense, despite play­ing at Coors Field, was not only one of the worst in the majors in 2020, but it was also one of the worst in fran­chise his­to­ry. The Rock­ies’ .311 on-base per­cent­age ranked 25th in the majors and was the worst in club his­to­ry. Their team OPS of .716 ranked 18th and also was the worst in fran­chise his­to­ry. Plus, Col­orado slugged only 63 home runs, rank­ing 22nd in base­ball.

A healthy Dahl won’t solve all of those short­com­ings, but he could help.

The 2019 sea­son was a shin­ing exam­ple of what Dahl can do. As a first-time all-star, he appeared in a career-high 100 games, hit .302 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs, and post­ed a .877 OPS and a 100 OPS+. A high-ankle sprain suf­fered while chas­ing down a line dri­ve in cen­ter field end­ed his sea­son Aug. 3.

Dahl had flashed his skills before. He made his big-league debut on July 25, 2016, at age 22, and prompt­ly hit safe­ly in the first 17 games of his career, tying the major league record. Dahl fin­ished the sea­son hit­ting .315 with sev­en home runs and 24 RBIs in 63 games. His .315 aver­age tied Todd Hel­ton in 1998 for the high­est bat­ting aver­age by a Rock­ies rook­ie (min­i­mum 200 at-bats).

But Dahl’s injury his­to­ry is exten­sive. He’s been afflict­ed by sim­ple bad luck, as well as injuries that call into ques­tion whether his body can with­stand the grind of a full big-league sea­son. He missed the entire 2017 sea­son with a stress reac­tion in a rib that also cre­at­ed a back injury. In 2018 — before his nine-homer, 27-RBI Sep­tem­ber helped lift the Rock­ies into the play­offs — he frac­tured his right foot when he fouled a pitch off it against San Fran­cis­co on May 30 and didn’t return until Aug. 5.

In 2019, Dahl missed eight games in April with what the club described as a “core injury.”

Dahl’s injury issues began in the minors. In 2013, he appeared in only 10 games for low‑A Ashville before miss­ing the rest of the sea­son with a ham­string injury. In 2015, his spleen was removed after he col­lid­ed with a team­mate while chas­ing a fly ball dur­ing a Double‑A game.

Dahl’s cur­rent shoul­der injury presents anoth­er chal­lenge — per­haps his biggest yet. The shoul­der began both­er­ing him in Jan­u­ary when he start­ed his throw­ing pro­gram. But, Dahl said, because he’d spent so much of his career being injured, he decid­ed not to report the injury.

“I fig­ured that I’d been on the (IL) a lot, and I need­ed to fig­ure this thing out on my own and push through this,” Dahl said.

The plan didn’t work. Worse, Dahl missed 22 games in August and Sep­tem­ber with an oblique injury. While he was rehab­bing, he under­went an MRI on his aching right shoul­der, but the test did not reveal the full extent of the dam­age. Dahl took a cor­ti­sone shot, but it didn’t fix the shoul­der prob­lem and he was lim­it­ed to five games after his return.

After the sea­son, Dahl under­went surgery. It was per­formed by Dr. Jef­frey Dugas of the Andrews Sports Med­i­cine & Ortho­pe­dic Cen­ter in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., Dahl’s home­town. Dugas repaired fray­ing in the labrum, fixed a small area of the rota­tor cuff and removed a bone spur and bur­sa sac that was caus­ing pain in Dahl’s shoul­der.

“I’m very hap­py and relieved,” Dahl said at the time. “It’s nice to know what was going on in there, get to the bot­tom of it, get it cleaned up and just get ready to attack this off­sea­son. I’ll rehab and be ready to go for spring train­ing. I have a lot to prove.”

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