GARY | Third base coaches are good for much more than a stop signal or a windmill arm motion that encourages runners to head home.
Former Minnesota Twins third base coach Steve Liddle was always full of aphorisms, and his nephew, also named Steve Liddle, usually picked up on the sayings. One in particular was relevant for the past week.
“He always said, ‘You can’t make the club if you’re in the tub,’” said the younger Steve Liddle, an infielder for the RailCats.
The RailCats’ Liddle was in the tub plenty after he fouled a ball off his right shin near the ankle last week and sat out the next five games.
He did not go on the disabled list but went through a battery of small treatments to heal the injury, which caused a huge amount of swelling and discoloration in every shade of black, blue and purple possible from his heel to midway up his shin.
He spent time in the cold tub and hot tub, slept with his leg elevated and endured the least desirable massages he’s ever had.
“(The massaging) was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, but it was just something that had to be done to get the swelling down and dissipated,” Liddle said. “The point wasn’t to relax it. It was to get the swelling out of the area so I could move it better.”
Liddle returned to the lineup Tuesday night and went 2-for-2 in a rain-shortened 6-4 Gary loss to the Sioux City Explorers at U.S. Steel Yard.
After being told he’d sit another game but make the long bus trip to El Paso, Texas, with the team for this weekend’s games in Texas, Liddle was pressed into Wednesday night’s game when catcher Ryan Babineau left the game with an injury. Babineau came up limping after scoring from second base on Zac Mitchell’s single up the middle in the second inning, and Craig Maddox moved from first base to catcher.
Liddle, who played first base, singled in his first two at-bats Wednesday and is gaining comfort with more movement.
“He’s a guy who we definitely want in that lineup every night,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said, noting the power potential for Liddle, who had 27 home runs and 138 RBI in 297 minor league games entering this season.
Liddle, 26, is somewhat used to bouncing back from injuries. After a blemish-free start to his career, which started with college ball at Vanderbilt and continued into the Twins’ organization, he had right shoulder surgery on his labrum in 2011 and bone spur surgery in his left elbow last year.
Now he’s trying to bounce back professionally after being released by the Twins’ organization following five stops in four seasons peaking at A-plus ball. Coincidentally his uncle Steve, who had worked for the Twins since 1988 and was a member of the parent club’s staff since 2002, did not have his contract renewed following the 2012 season.