There’s never a good time to get plunked, but Ducks outfielder Delta Cleary Jr. really could have done without it. Cleary was feeling in complete control at the plate when a pitch from Somerset’s Jeremy Horst found his left hand on May 10.
“I was in the groove,” said Cleary. “I was starting to feel it every day. It was bad timing.”
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At first, Cleary, who was hitting .297 with six RBIs and five doubles, didn’t think the pain was all that serious. He had never been hit on the hand by a pitch before, he said. But, when he felt the hand swelling up while playing the field during the next half inning, he figured it wasn’t your ordinary hit-by-pitch.
And it certainly wasn’t. Cleary’s hand was broken and soon he was back at his Jonesboro, Arkansas, home, rehabbing and watching the Ducks on the team’s YouTube feed. He missed 31 games before returning last Sunday when he went 1-for-5 with two runs and an RBI in a 14-4 win over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
Cleary, who is still getting his timing back and said he’s still not 100 percent, went 5-for-20 in his first five games since returning, all Duck victories. He said he is not panicking and knows where he needs to be.
“Just get in the groove,” Cleary said. “The groove is just seeing pitches, knowing what I can do, and trying to get that good swing off every time.”
His presence in the lineup is a welcome one. Lew Ford (hamstring), Sean Burroughs (shoulder), Dan Lyons (hamstring), and Tyler Colvin (leg) are all on the disabled list and, according to manager Kevin Baez on Thursday, were at least 10 days to two weeks away from returning.
“Other guys have to step up,” Baez said. “For some, it’s getting an opportunity and for others, it’s just picking up the slack. That’s why they call it a team game.”
Despite all the injuries, the Ducks keep quacking. A three-game sweep of the expansion New Britain Bees last week doubled their lead over the pesky upstarts in the Freedom Division.
Entering yesterday’s double-header against the Lancaster Barnstormers, the Ducks held a half-game lead over Somerset and a six game lead over the Bees in the Liberty Division first half standings. The first half ends on July 3 and the winner receives an automatic playoff berth.
Passing the torch
In a little less than a month, former Duck Randy Leek has repeatedly been leapfrogged in the team’s all-time record book by current starter John Brownell. Brownell broke Leek’s inning’s pitched record on May 25. Since then, he’s also broken Leek’s games started mark (93) and tied his wins record (40). Brownell surpassed Leek as the team’s all-time strikeout king last season.
The two finally met on Thursday before the Ducks 3-1 victory over the Bees. Leek, who lives in Levittown and owns Hitter’s Club, an indoor training facility in Farmingdale, with fellow Duck alums Kevin Haverbusch and Rob Cafiero, threw batting practice before the game.
“I’ve been out long enough,” Leek, who played from 2007-10, said. “It’s about time somebody stepped in and took over...[Brownell] seems like a good guy to get the records.”
Leek said he tries to attend ‘two or three‘ games a year, but has never seen Brownell pitch.
After this Sunday’s series finale with Lancaster, the Ducks travel to Pennsylvania to take on the York Revolution. Entering Saturday’s game, York held a three game lead over Sugar Land for first place in the Freedom Division first half standings.