GARY | Ryan Brockett appeared on the RailCats' radar mid-June of last season and played sparingly as the team won an American Association Championship.
But Brockett impressed manager Greg Tagert enough that Tagert and his coaching staff shuffled the infield to make sure that Brockett had a chance to become the 2014 starting shortstop.
Brockett was on task to do so until a May 10 preseason game against Windy City, when he was sliding into second base and a thrown ball hit his hand, breaking his thumb and injuring his wrist.
Brockett started his season on the disabled list and was ready to jump into the lineup as soon as his cast came off. Tagert held off until Brockett's wrist and thumb were fully healed.
The 24-year old returned to the RailCats on June 13 and played in four games.
He then took a line drive to the eye in Grand Prairie and as his eye swelled shut. It was back to the DL.
"Everyone got opening day on May 15 and I had to wait a month," Brockett said. "It was unfortunate what happened, but I’m lucky to be here and hopefully we have no more injuries the rest of the way."
Brockett was reactivated from the disabled list before Tuesday's game at U.S. Steel Yard against Sioux Falls, taking his fifth start of the year. It was also just the third time that Tagert and company had a chance to see the lineup they envisioned in the offseason.
When Brockett took over at short, that moved Zac Mitchell to second base and Danny Pulfer to third. Since Brockett started the season on the DL, Pulfer has started 12 games at third and 19 at shortstop. Mitchell has started all 36 games at second base.
"This gives us a chance to see it and it’s going to take a while as Ryan realized in those first couple starts that it’s a little different than in the simulated games to get hits," Tagert said.
Brockett didn't have a hit in his first four starts and in his first at-bat Tuesday he was hit by a pitch. He walked to first base fine and continued in the game.
Though they haven't seen it yet, the RailCats know what Brockett can do offensively. He hit .364 for the team in 22 games during the 2013 regular season and played in six games in the American Association playoffs.
"I’m not too worried about the at-bats; he’ll get plenty of those," Tagert said. "It’s all the other things, the activity of throwing the baseball every day, running out the ground balls. He’s done a good job of keeping himself in shape in the meantime."
Pulfer has started every season of his pro career in mid-June. When he was signed by Wochester in 2012 he had just finished college. Last season, he was coming out of grad school when he was signed by the Schaumburg Boomers in late June and then the RailCats in mid-July.
"Every year seems to be right around this time," Brockett said. "Hopefully next year we can start playing in May."
There has been enough movement in the RailCats' ranks since Brockett went to the DL in May that Tagert is eager to see that he wasn't wrong in his analysis of the right-handed hitter.
"There’s a lot of guys here who haven’t seen Ryan Brockett play and want to know what all the fuss is about," Tagert said. "Hopefully he can show them."