Ben Revere felt something wrong on the very first swing of the season.
“I swung, then I swung another time and struck out, and I thought something ain’t right,” the Washington Nationals outfielder and former Lexington Catholic star said Saturday. “Then I came up my second at-bat, took a big 2-0 hack on a fastball and felt it, and that when I really ticked it off. It was tough for me to breathe.”
Revere hit a ground ball, and when he got down to first base, he told the coaches something was up. An MRI revealed that he had torn his oblique muscle.
“I was like you’ve got to be joking,” Revere said. “I couldn’t swing a bat or pick up a bat for the whole month of April. It’s a little bit into May, finally pick up a bat and play some games and come back against big league pitching. Really, technically, I started over.”
Acquired in the off-season from Toronto, Revere was expected to be the spark plug at the top of the order as a talented Washington roster focused on returning to the playoffs after a disappointing 2015. In spring training, Revere hit .429 (18-for-42) with three doubles and a triple.
The opening-day injury, however, promptly placed him on the disabled list. His first base hit with the Nationals didn’t occur until May 8. Since then, he has struggled to find his groove. After going two-for-12 in the weekend series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park, Revere was hitting just .167.
“It’s the first time I have had to deal with the oblique injury,” Revere said Saturday. “I talked to some guys about going through the process and asked them, ‘Does it kind of maybe change your swing a little bit?’ And some of them go, ‘It may. You get back and you feel you’re just off. Feel no pain, but it just seems like you’re just off.’”
Drafted in the first round by Minnesota in 2007, Revere made his MLB debut with the Twins. In 2013, he was traded to the Phillies, where he hit .305 that season and .325 in 2014, leading the National League in hits with 184.
When Philadelphia went into rebuilding mode, the Phillies shipped Revere to Toronto in the middle of last year. Revere hit .319 in 56 games with the Blue Jays, helping Toronto an AL East title. At the end of the year, however, the Jays sent Revere back to the NL in exchange for pitcher Drew Storen.
When he finally returned from the oblique injury, Revere expected to pick up where he left off. It hasn’t been that way, however. He had just five hits in 50 at-bats in the first 11 games after the injury.
“I came back and hit some balls hard, then I kind of struggled,” Revere said. “Then I got some triples, double, home run and I was like, OK, I’m finally staying inside the ball. And then after that, I just kind of rolled over everything.”
He has received plenty of support from the Nationals. Manager Dusty Baker is still hitting Revere at the top of the lineup. With his reputation as a players’ manager, Baker has talked with Revere, told him to relax and the stroke will return.
“All of it is going to come together,” Revere said. “We’re in first place, and that’s a good sign. When I get going, I think that’s when we’re really going to start rolling.”
The good news: Even though he went 0-for-3 with a walk on Saturday, Revere cranked a ball to deep center field that Billy Hamilton made a leaping catch up the wall on in the first inning. Then in Sunday’s 10-9 win over the Reds, Revere went two for five with a pair of singles, an RBI and a run scored. Maybe that’s a sign of things to come.
“It’s just a rhythm stage and timing,” Revere said Saturday. “Soon as I get that down, I’ll be fine.”
Ben Revere career stats