It has a trying summer for Ducks outfielder Lew Ford. Baseball is in his blood and having the game taken away for an extended period of time was a hard pill to swallow.
Ford, 36, who played parts of six seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles, returned to the Ducks on Aug. 24 after missing 73 of the first 116 games with a hamstring injury. He missed 25 games in May and June, returning on June 25 in an effort to help the Ducks secure the Liberty Division first-half title and with it, an automatic playoff berth.
The return to the lineup was short-lived. Ford, who is also the Ducks’ bench coach, played in only five games before reinjuring his hamstring and going on the shelf for another 47 games, a time period that spanned nearly two months.
“I came back too early in June,” Ford said last week, his legs casually propped up on the desk in the coach’s office. “I was trying to help win the first half. This time, I feel ready to go. It’s not like I was pushing to come back early.”
But, the original intent — helping the Ducks make the playoffs — was accomplished. And that’s enough for Ford.
“At the time, it felt like the right thing to do,” Ford said. “It set me back a little bit, but we’re in the playoffs and I’m ok right now to play.”
This time, Ford came back because of health, not circumstance.
“I’ve been working with the training staff here and we set timetables on progression,” he said. “We progressed to the point where it was like ‘OK, it’s time to get in the game.’ . . . It’s just what we planned out. Everything’s going good so far.”
Ford hit .500 with a double, RBI, and three runs in his first five games after returning from the disabled list. Ford was hitting .337 with 26 RBIs and five home runs in 47 games, entering play Friday.
Since returning, Ford has been the Ducks’ designated hitter. “I’d like to play the field in the playoffs if everything goes good,” Ford said.
Although Ducks manager Kevin Baez would like the comfort of having a former major leaguer patrolling the outfield during the postseason, he was noncommittal last week about the prospect of Ford playing both ways.
“Delta [Cleary Jr.] has been doing a great job,” Baez said. “[Anthony] Vega and [Fehlandt] Lentini have been doing outstanding out there. I’m not quite sure yet.”
However, Baez was sure about how good it is to have Ford back in the lineup, especially after his team limped to a 11-19 Aug record. In a second half where the roster has been gutted by other professional leagues, Baez welcomed the consistent presence of his all-star slugger.
“He’s definitely a guy that you want playing for you,” Baez said.
The Ducks finish their eight-game road trip Sunday at New Britain and open their final regular-season homestand Monday afternoon.