|Bouchard Keeps Battling|
Labrum surgery ended Bouchard's 2009 season
It has been a very tough two years for shortstop Matt Bouchard. His 2008 season was wiped out by injury and he faced the same fate this past season. The third year shortstop has fought injuries throughout his career to date, but that has not slowed his determination to get back to the field and demonstrate the tools that keep him one of the more highly regarded infielders in the organization.
2009 was going to be the season when shortstop Matt Bouchard was finally healthy and ready to contribute for a full season. He was healed from last year's hernia that limited him to 75 injury-plagued games and the organization retained its high value for him enough to assign him to Binghamton out of Spring Training despite having never suited up in St. Lucie.
Bouchard had a strong Spring Training, impressing coaches in drills and camp competitions. He struck the ball well, appeared in big league games and was poised to put it together once the regular season began.
"It was definitely a big jump and I worked hard last off-season to get myself healthy. I came into Spring Training in great shape, I thought I had a real good camp, I learned a lot," said Bouchard.
"To the get the opportunity to start in Double-A was amazing and though I wasn't there long, I did a learn a lot and it was my goal for the rest of the season to get back even though I finished in High-A and Brooklyn," he continued.
However, the start to his season did not go as planned. He was moved to second base, a position which never played on an everyday basis, and had to adjust to a significantly improved level of pitching.
From watching Bouchard during his opening games with the B-Mets, it was clear he played beyond himself as his swing and approach at the plate broke down. But he was not about to find an excuse for his subpar start.
"I don't believe it was the injury. I believe it was a lot of things and probably the number one thing was making the adjustment to the league. I'd heard that the difference between A-ball and Double-A ball was a huge step for anyone, but that doesn't mean I couldn't do it," he explained.
"I just think I was trying to do too much and trying to justify the jump to everyone that had a say, but that's not what I needed to do. I was trying to make things happen instead of letting my abilities take over."
After 15 unsuccessful games, Bouchard was sent to St. Lucie where his playing time was regular though he played all over the infield. Again he started cold but began to pick up the pace and was moved to Brooklyn, not as a demotion, but in an effort to get him playing time.
He hit .270 over his final ten games in St. Lucie and then hit .408 in 14 games with Brooklyn, but after 72 games the labrum tear popped up and immediately ended his season. It was an injury the doctors believed may have been initiated by last year's hernia.
"I had a tear in the labrum and the joint problem and the doctors said it was something I was playing on for a while and may have only felt the effects of this year. I had the sports hernia last year which may have caused me to compensate one side last year," Bouchard detailed.
"The doctors said the two injuries may have been related so hopefully we finally got the cause of everything."
Two and a half months ago, Bouchard underwent labrum surgery identical to the procedures experienced by Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez and many others. Now he is about two to four weeks away from returning to full conditioning, but will begin to throw and jog sooner than that.
The loss of most of his 2009 season was another serious blow to a player the organization has put a large amount of stock in, and talent creeping up behind him from lower levels figures to make his road even tougher.
But the hardest part, he admitted, has been the mental aspect of losing so much time and opportunity. Yet, he has not let negativity effect him as Bouchard, who will be 23 in December and likely to return to Double-A in 2010, keeps his eyes on what lies ahead.
"Being injured like this two years in a row, it's tough mentally and still is, but I'm just trying to control everything I can from here on out."
"I know I've had to be tough mentality but to me all these things are just speed bumps to my ultimate goal. I've missed time, but I keep telling myself I'm going to be stronger for it."