After establishing himself as a contributing everyday player for the San Diego Padres in 2013, former WVU middle infielder Jedd Gyorko signed a multi-year contract extension in April of this year with the National League club.
Gyorko was only 25 years old. His future seemed mapped out for him. The Padres had a major investment in him . . . and rightly so because he was coming off a 2013 season where he had 23 home runs, 26 doubles and 63 RBIs in 125 games. Pounding out 23 home runs for a second baseman made Gyorko one of the major league leaders at his position.
When this season opened, the Morgantown resident and University High alumnus was batting third in manager Bud Black's lineup. After getting a $35 million, six-year extension, Gyorko's world seemed settled and without discomfort.
The rewards were coming for the Padres' second round selection in the 2010 amateur draft.
But the blocky, 5-foot-10, 195-pound second baseman started slowly . . . striking out at an alarming rate and not getting many hits of any kind, much less many homers.
Gyorko was moved down in the batting order. And then he was given days off. And then he was struck by injury.
With his batting average hovering below .170, he was tagged out by plantar fasciitis, a foot problem that won't allow running without severe pain. The plantar is a flat band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes. It supports the arch. When strained, the ligament that supports the arch won't stand pressure, especially the constant movement needed to play major league baseball.
Finally, on June 3, after going 6-for-36 in his last nine games, Gyorko was forced onto the 15-day disabled list. Nobody expected him to return to the playing field in only 15 days.
The Padres were losing games without Gyorko. Their season was in the same trench as his. The team tried four different faces at second base. And none of them could muster a .180 batting average.
The former Mountaineer finally returned from the disabled list on Monday of this week. His statistics are only a shadow of what he accomplished in 2013. A .162 batting average with five doubles and five home runs. He has struck out 56 times in 204 official at-bats.
The months of August and September will be like a "second season" for Gyorko.
A rehabilitation stint in the minor leagues may help him get acclimated again. But facing minor league pitching can only do so much when a player comes back to see Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright or Aroldis Chapman.
The Padres are going nowhere. Gyorko doesn't have the added pressure of a last-months pennant race to cloud his return-to-productivity effort. But he needs to eventually find the swing and the patience it took to club 23 home runs in 125 games last season.