The Los Angeles Dodgers are another step closer to reaching full strength. That's bad news for the rest of the National League.
With Bellinger back and Betts heating up, the San Fransico Giants will have a hard time holding back the defending World Champions. Add Seager to the mix, and the Los Angeles lineup will be the same dangerous lineup that tortured NL pitching staffs in the 2020 playoffs.
Seager is taking ground balls
This is not the first time Seager has taken ground balls in the infield since landing on the injured list. It is, however, the first time Seager has taken ground balls without his hand splint. On May 17th, in a game between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seager was drilled in the hand by a pitch, fracturing a metacarpal.
It isn't uncommon for players to be hit in the hand. In many cases, the hit by a pitch only costs the player a game or two due to bruising and soreness. In some cases, like with Seager, a fracture results. A metacarpal fracture, on average, requires 52 days away from gameplay. Seager is on track to beat that average.
What is next for Seager?
Taking ground balls without a splint is a great first step but it is hardly the most challenging. Swinging a bat at full speed will be the largest hurdle. Sliding headfirst into a base would be as well, but Seager isn't a base-stealer and he can simply prioritize feet-first sliding. Why is swinging a bat going to be challenging? One word: atrophy
Wearing a splint is necessary for healing, but immobilization leads to muscle wasting. While hands don't have a lot of muscle, atrophy still occurs, limiting grip strength, power, and dexterity. As the bone heals, its resilience will improve, allowing it to tolerate stress and strain. Muscle does grow with rest. Power (the speed at which we can move a muscle) doesn't improve without specific training.
Seager will continue to build up a tolerance to basic activities, such as catching and throwing, but he needs more strength, power, and dexterity before swinging a bat repeatedly at full speed. There is also a difference between swinging a bat at a tee, in the cage, and during a game.
When swinging on a tee, you are able to fully plan for the swing plane, speed, and timing. When hitting in a cage or during batting practice, the pitch variability is limited. When playing in a game, you have to react to the pitcher. This requires more control of the bat. If there is any pain or lack of control due to strength and power deficits, timing will suffer and Seager will look like a high school batter trying to make it in the bigs.
All this to say, expect Seager back in a few weeks, but not before he gets a substantial rehab assignment. He will need some time to restore his swing mechanics and pitch timing. When he does return, the Los Angeles Dodgers will once again boast the best lineup in baseball. Granted, with the way 2021 was gone, there is a decent change a different player will be on the injured list by then.