After completing Game 1 of his rehabilitation mission with the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Cubs outfielder returned to the clubhouse in left field in the top of the sixth inning. As Suzuki walked past the Iowa bullpen, the team’s relievers stood up and gave him congratulatory punches.
Suzuki celebrated their return to the field with a huge night out. He had two hits, including a long home run, in Iowa’s 12-6 loss to the Columbus Clippers on Thursday night. In the end, Suzuki went 2-for-3 with a single, two RBIs, two runs scored and the home run.
“I’m pretty happy with the results,” Suzuki said through an interpreter.
It was a perfectly successful first test for Suzuki in his first rehab game with the Cubs’ top Triple-A affiliate. Suzuki has been on the injured list since May 30 with a sprained left ring finger. He was injured sliding at second base in a game in Cincinnati against the Reds.
The injury persisted and Suzuki was slow to return. But he was finally cleared to begin a rehabilitation mission in Iowa on Thursday. Suzuki arrived in Des Moines this week with a trainer, an interpreter and seven members of the Japanese news agency media covering his every move. He gave them a lot of fun with a great evening at the plate.
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Suzuki threw a two-strike pitch to right field for an RBI single late in the first inning. He then scored on a two-run single from Erick Castillo. Suzuki then had a productive batting presence on his second trip to the plate. He fought back from an 0-2 count and worked it hard before going on strikes.
The highlight of the night came in the fourth when Suzuki crushed a 1-1 bid, a 93 mph pitch, on the right field scoreboard and near the bleachers. It was the last at bat of the night for Suzuki, who needed three at bats in his first game.
“Regardless of the results, just being out there with everyone was really fun,” Suzuki said. “The team is in good spirits. So it was just fun to be there.”
Being back on the pitch was one of the most important parts of his journey back. Another big part was how Suzuki felt afterwards. Suzuki, who wore a protective blanket over his hand as he directed the goals, said he felt fine after the game.
“Finger feels good,” Suzuki said. “Obviously it was my first game for about a month now. So a bit of fatigue. So I just want to readjust my body to the game.”
The Cubs have been patient with Suzuki’s recovery. But we miss him sorely. Suzuki had already become an important part of Chicago’s roster as a patient and powerful hitter. During his 41-game stint with the Cubs, Suzuki hit .245 (34 for 139) with 12 doubles, one triple and four homers. Suzuki was named National League Rookie of the Month for April.
Suzuki was the biggest pick of the offseason for the Cubs, who signed him to a five-year, $85 million deal in March. He was an international superstar in Japan as a five-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star and a five-time Central League Gold Glove Award winner.
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It remains to be seen when he could be back in Chicago. Suzuki said he plans to be back in the lineup Friday with Iowa. After that?
“Nothing is really planned,” he said. “I know I have to talk with the coaches here and obviously the front office people. So I just want to get on with my day and talk to everyone and make a good decision at the end of the day.”
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports entrepreneur and featured reporter, has worked at the newspaper since 2008. He is Iowa’s 2018 and 2020 Sports Writer of the Year. Contact him at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.