Noel Cuevas was on a tear.
Through 11 games this season with the Albuquerque Isotopes, he was hitting .378 and had four home runs, 14 RBIs and a pair of stolen bases.
It didn’t take long for the Colorado Rockies, where Cuevas played 75 games in 2018, to see that the 27-year-old outfielder was ready for a return trip to the big leagues, calling him up to make the start on April 15 against the San Diego Padres.
“My second at-bat, I hit a ground ball to third base,” Cuevas recalls of his first MLB game of the 2019 season. “It was going to be a hard play for (Padres third baseman Manny) Machado. He kind of bobbled it. I was going hard and tried to beat it out. I ended up beating it out, but in the process, that’s when I pulled the muscle.”
And, just like that, with a pull of his left quadriceps trying to leg out an infield grounder, Cuevas’ MLB stint was over.
Six weeks later, the Puerto Rico native is back in Triple-A and back with the Isotopes, who lost 10-6 to the Sacramento River Cats on Saturday night to start a nine-game home stand in front of an announced fireworks game crowd of 6,974.
“I was doing great,” Cuevas said. “I was doing good and this was an unfortunate event. It’s just one of those things that you can’t control. I took care of my body the best that I could and it’s just bad that it happened, but you get knocked down, you get back up.”
And getting back up — figuratively from the injury and a little more literally in terms of getting back up to the majors — is something Cuevas thinks he’s better equipped to handle today than he did in the past.
In 2016, after ripping through spring training, Cuevas pulled a hamstring. With what in his mind was a very realistic shot at getting a promotion to the Rockies that season, he let his youthful exuberance get the best of him, rushing his way back onto the field.
The result? He never regained that early season form that had him thinking he was on his way to the majors.
“There was definitely a rush to get back to try to do that,” Cuevas said. “And I ended up not only not getting called up, but getting sent down to Double-A because I didn’t perform.”
This time around, he’s more than accepting of a more patient approach.
“That’s one thing I learned from my past injury,” Cuevas said. “Rushing it wasn’t going to help me at all. I’m going to be able to help the team being at a 100 percent. Rushing it won’t get me to 100 percent.”
And while he is technically on an MLB rehab assignment for now in Albuquerque, he isn’t viewing his status as one of an MLB player just killing time before his Rockies return.
“I really don’t feel like I’m on an MLB rehab,” Cuevas said. “I’m playing to improve my numbers. … I know I have nothing made here. I don’t have a permanent spot on the team. When I got called up (in April and last season), I earned it. I feel like for that to happen again, I’m going to have to earn it again.”
The organization is OK with a cautious approach, too. Cuevas went 0-for 3 in his Isotopes return on Friday night in Las Vegas, Nev., before the trip back to Albuquerque on Saturday and a night off.
For now, Cuevas said his road back is more about confidence and getting comfortable on the field again rather than physical limitations.
After five weeks of rehab work, it’s time to see what he can do again at full speed.
“I’m getting there,” Cuevas said. “It’s more mental right now. It’s just about getting out there, running and feeling comfortable. It’s going to be a process. I could be 100 percent (physically), but I still don’t really know it yet because I haven’t run 100 percent yet. That’s the type of process I’m going to have to get out here playing.”
SUNDAY: Vs. Sacramento
6:05 p.m., Isotopes Park,
610 AM/95.9 FM
Promotion: ’90s Night/postgame fireworks
Probables: River Cats RHP Yoanis Quiala (1-1, 6.94) vs. Isotopes TBA
Saturday: The Sacramento River Cats had 16 hits, including four home runs, to spoil the opening of a nine-game homestand for the Isotopes, 10-6.
Albuquerque hit three homers of its own in front of a fireworks night announced crowd of 6,974, but the home team never led after allowing four in the top of the first.
‘Topes starter Pat Dean’s 30th birthday was a rough one, allowing eight runs (just three were earned) in 5 innings.
Albuquerque CF Yonathan Daza was 3-for-5 and RF Sam Hilliard hit his 15th homer of the season. Pat Valaika and Roberto Ramos also went deep for Albuquerque.
|Peña, F, 1B||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.305|
|García, An, LF||5||1||3||1||0||0||4||.273|
|Ramos, H, RF||5||3||3||1||0||0||0||.258|
|Franco, E, P||3||0||0||0||0||3||0||.000|
|a-Singled for Abad in the 9th.
2B: Ramos, H 2 (6, Dean, Grills); Michael (2, Grills); Gerber (15, Dean).
HR: Garcia (6, 5th inning off Dean, 0 on, 0 out); Michael (4, 5th inning off Dean, 0 on, 2 out); García, An (5, 7th inning off Grills, 0 on, 0 out); Gerber (8, 3rd inning off Dean, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Avelino; Freeman; García, An 6; Garcia 4; Gerber 7; Howard; Michael 7; Ramos, H 5.
RBI: García, An (19); Garcia (19); Gerber 2 (28); Howard 2 (4); Michael 2 (9); Ramos, H (18).
2-out RBI: Howard 2; Ramos, H; Michael 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Garcia; Avelino; McNamara; Michael; García, An.
Team RISP: 4-for-13.
Team LOB: 9.
SB: Howard (1, 2nd base off Dean/Nuñez).
E: Franco, E (1, pickoff).
|Gonzalez, N, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.500|
|a-Mooney, P, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.246|
|a-Grounded out for Gonzalez, N in the 6th. b-Grounded out for Grills in the 9th.
2B: Mundell (11, Franco, E).
3B: Hampson (1, Rogers).
HR: Hilliard (15, 4th inning off Franco, E, 0 on, 1 out); Valaika (12, 5th inning off Franco, E, 0 on, 0 out); Ramos (10, 4th inning off Franco, E, 1 on, 1 out).
TB: Daza 3; Fuentes; Hampson 3; Hilliard 4; Mundell 2; Ramos 4; Valaika 5.
RBI: Hilliard (45); Ramos 2 (39); Valaika 3 (25).
2-out RBI: Valaika.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Hampson 2; Mundell.
Team RISP: 3-for-6.
Team LOB: 7.
E: Hampson (2, throw); Dean (1, throw).
|Franco, E (W, 2-1)||5.0||6||5||4||2||9||3||6.98|
|McNamara (H, 2)||1.2||1||0||0||0||1||0||1.35|
|Dean (L, 0-4)||5.0||9||8||3||1||5||3||8.82|
HBP: Slater (by Dean); Hampson (by Franco, E).
Pitches-strikes: Franco, E 94-68; McNamara 23-15; Abad 18-12; Rogers 18-14; Dean 88-66; Gonzalez, N 8-7; Grills 45-32.
Groundouts-flyouts: Franco, E 2-2; McNamara 1-2; Abad 0-3; Rogers 2-1; Dean 8-2; Gonzalez, N 2-1; Grills 2-1.
Batters faced: Franco, E 24; McNamara 6; Abad 5; Rogers 5; Dean 27; Gonzalez, N 3; Grills 16.
Inherited runners-scored: Abad 1-0.
Umpires: HP: Lewis Williams III. 1B: Cody Oakes. 3B: Sean Ryan.
Weather: 83 degrees, Partly Cloudy.
Wind: 20 mph, Varies.
First pitch: 6:38 PM.
Venue: Isotopes Park.
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