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Recovered from surgery, Stokes has regained stroke


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Isotopes: Recovered from surgery, Stokes has regained stroke

By Jeff Carlton

Tribune Reporter

April 19, 2006


The injury that sidelined Albuquerque Isotopes first baseman Jason Stokes last season wasn't the cool sort that will score you points with the ladies.


It was more like Paul Bunyan suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Or Ironman Cal Ripken ending his consecutive-games played streak because of a hangnail. Or William Wallace of "Braveheart" fame crying uncle instead of "Freeeeeedom."


Stokes, the very picture of a strapping, slugging Texan, played only 13 games last season because of an unheroic-sounding but bothersome injury: inflammation in his left thumb.


"I had to get a ligament cut in half and reattached," Stokes said. "Basically, it was a ligament that was out of whack. It wouldn't work any more."


The opposable thumb separates us from all but the apes and the raccoons, neither of which are known for their hitting. Stokes' inflamed thumb kept him from playing properly.


Think of it this way: No grip, no rip. For the previous two seasons, he felt pain in every swing.


"If you have pain in your hand, you can't swing," he said.


Surgery corrected the problem, but cost him most of the 2005 season.


Stokes now seems all-the-way back. After a confidence-sapping 2-for-25 start to the season, Stokes has regained his stroke.


He has 10 hits in his last 18 at-bats, including a 2-for-5 showing Tuesday night at Isotopes Park in his team's 7-6 10-inning win against the Iowa Cubs (7-6).


Stokes has his batting average up to .279.


"I am comfortable with this park. I love this park," Stokes said. "I was putting some good wood on the ball for awhile."


That included his at-bats against Iowa. Stokes hit a double and single in his first two trips to the plate, scoring two runs.


He has begun to play like the power hitter the Florida Marlins selected in the second round of the 2000 draft. Stokes hit 25 home runs as a senior at Coppell (Texas) High, a state record.


"They like his power numbers," Isotopes manager Dean Treanor said, speaking for Marlins' officials. "There's a lot of juice in that bat."


That's become evident in recent games after Stokes' slow start. Treanor chalked up those early struggles to Stokes' disappointment over not making the major league roster.


Players who barely miss out on their major league dreams sometimes press too hard in their efforts to get called up, Treanor said.


"He's got a clear mind and he's not trying to do too much," Treanor said. "A lot of these guys were in the mix there at big league camp. There's a lot of disappointment in them coming down.


"What's natural and normal is for them to try to put up big numbers quick, and it just doesn't work that way. You know how this level is. These guys have to get into this level. They have to get into it here."


Consider Stokes "into it" now. His average is rising, along with his power numbers and confidence.


"I've been playing baseball for 16 years," Stokes said. "Eventually, it kind of clicks a little bit."

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