Forget the All-Star break, just call this an All-Dad break. Ducks starter Matt Larkins returned from a month-long hiatus Sunday after he was put on leave to concentrate on something a little more important than baseball — the birth of his first child.
“It’s awesome being a dad,” Larkins said. “As soon as that thing comes out, it’s a different world.”
New duckling Oliver Larkins was born on July 11 in Idaho, giving his dad a trip back home and some extremely rare non-injury-related time off in the summer.
“It was great,” Larkins said. “I had actually never been back home during the summer, so it was good to see it not covered by snow and rain. It was nice and sunny and green out, so that was fun to be able to experience that and to be there with my wife through it all. I think it was really important for me to be there and thankfully [Ducks president and general manager Michael] Pfaff and the organization were OK with me going home.”
Regardless the reason, a month off the mound is a long time, so the Ducks are easing Larkins back. He pitched three innings Sunday night, allowing two runs and three hits with three strikeouts in three innings of the series finale against the Somerset Patriots.
Larkins said his arm felt great as he prepared.
“Three weeks is a long time, but it’s also not forever, so it’s come back pretty quick,” he said. “The arm feels really good, so that’s a positive and I don’t think it’ll take much to get me back to where I was before I left.”
The 260-pound righthander was 5-2 with a 3.64 ERA in nine pre-baby starts. He had 36 strikeouts and eight walks in 54 1⁄3 innings.
“You know what you’re getting with Larkins,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “He’s a bulldog out there. He throws strikes. He’s going to keep you in the game and he’s not going to get rattled. No game is too big for him, so he’s a guy that controls the game. He was missed when he left.”
Larkins struggled in his final start before paternity leave. He allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 5 1⁄3 innings of a 7-3 loss to the Lancaster Barnstormers on June 21. It was his worst start of the year, but one that’s deep in the rearview mirror at this point.
“I think I’m throwing a lot of strikes,” he said. “Just in the few days I’ve been back, I sort of struggled with command, so hopefully I can bring back some of that attacking mentality, continue to pound the zone, throw strikes, and get guys out like I’ve always done.”