Desmond healthy, eager for postseason play

Rockies hoping he can provide offensive boost vs. D-backs

Desmond healthy, eager for postseason play

PHOENIX -- Ian Desmond has shown recent signs of regaining the timing of his swing, and he hopes a lengthy postseason run could give him the opportunity to perform better.

Desmond, who has played left field and first base for the Rockies, figures to play a prominent role against the D-backs in tonight's National League Wild Card Game at Chase Field.

Date Time Highlights
Oct. 4 D-backs 11, Rockies 8 WATCH

"I feel great, my body feels great -- thank you so much to the trainers, who put in a lot of work on me this year to get me healthy," Desmond said.

Desmond, in the first year of a five-year, $70 million contract, has been on the disabled list three times -- the first 25 games with a fractured left hand, and twice for 37 games total with a recurring right calf strain.

The last return from injury illustrates that sometimes it takes time.

From his return on Aug. 28 to Sept. 12, Desmond hit .200 with a .289 on-base percentage and .225 slugging percentage. That period began with a 2-7 homestand that threatened the team's playoff positioning. But manager Bud Black kept running Desmond out regularly, and it paid off.

From Sept. 13 to the end of the regular season, Desmond's offensive performance improved -- .281/.344/.421. His best stretch came from Sept. 22-29, when he hit .320, homered twice and drove in six runs. The Rockies won five of the seven games in that period.

According to Statcast™, it's not that Desmond has turned torrid as much as he's back to his level before the latest injury.

During the nine-game slump, Aug. 28-Sept. 12, he had a hard-hit rate (95 mph or greater exit velocity) of 16.7 percent, which led to a .148 expected batting average (also based on launch angle).

From Sept. 13, through the end of the regular season, Desmond had a 34.8 percent hard-hit rate and a .222 expected batting average. Considering he hit .281, he had better results than his contact. Actually, the late-season performance mirrored what Desmond did before the final injury. From April 30 to July 25, he had an XBA of .222 (against an actual .285) and a 31.9 percent hard-hit rate.

Statcast™ doesn't look kindly upon Desmond's tendency to hit balls on the ground, although Desmond said he can make up for those with speed. But Desmond knows there is another level for him, which he can reach if he stays in his basic approach.

"My strengths are hitting the ball to the middle of the field," Desmond said. "If I can think back to my best stretches, it's done through the middle. That's my mindset, and from time to time, you get line-to-line power in that. And if I hit it on the ground to beat out an infield hit.

"Obviously, I don't want to have an extremely high ground-ball rate. That comes with timing."

Familiar foe
Whether it's at the shared Spring Training facilities at Salt River Fields or the 19 games between the two sides this season, the Rockies and D-backs know each other better than most Wild Card opponents.

"There are no secrets here," Black said on Tuesday.

For some, the experience goes even deeper than that. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu said on Tuesday that he's faced some of Arizona's homegrown talent, including left-hander Patrick Corbin, dating to Class A ball in the Minors (when LeMahieu was in the Cubs' organization).

"We've been playing each other since like Rookie ball, extended spring training," Carlos Gonzalez said. "You always play against each other. It's great. It's a great battle."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Fabian Ardaya contributed to this story.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.