Skole on return to baseball: “It has been a long wait, but I am really excited about it”

The Nationals’ minor league Player of the Year for 2012 is back on the field and only a couple of days away from heading to the Arizona Fall League.

In the first post in a two-part series, I got to speak with third baseman Matt Skole on a myriad of subjects. First and foremost, he spoke about the long summer of rehab. Skole was injured on a freak play at first base in the first month of his Double-A season for Harrisburg. After tearing a ligament in his non-throwing arm, Skole underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

He has rehabbed the entire summer and has now returned to playing baseball for the Nationals during fall instructional league in Viera, Fla. This weekend, he heads off to Mesa, Ariz., to begin play with the Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

Two games. That is all Skole has been able to play this season. So this return is a big moment for Skole, who hit 27 homers and 104 RBIs in 2012, moving up the ladder in the Nationals organization from Single-A to Double-A.

After being injured on a fielding play at first base, Skole had surgery, and then spent the summer rehabbing and reshaping his body.

“For the first part, it was definitely monotonous being down here, going to rehab and there is only so much you can do and so much you can work out and getting done at 12 or 1 o’clock every day, I had a lot of time on my hands,” Skole said. “So I just did some reading and stuff to trying to keep me sane. It really just made me not take anything for granted.

“It was a crazy injury, a freak injury, but you know it happened. It made me think to take things for what it is. I got to take it and run with it. It was not necessarily a blessing in disguise. It gave me some time to work on my body and some time to work on the things I needed to work on. And it gave me some time to do that. I think that is one of the things I really needed to learn before I actually reach my full potential.”

Skole looks a bit different now, too. He was able to build strength, lose some weight, tone his body and build up his core to a point where he now feels as strong as he has ever been.

“I lost about 10-15 pounds,” Skole said. “I am definitely a lot stronger than I was just because pretty much the only thing I could do was work out while I was down here. I learned a lot about the stuff that needs to go into my body to fuel it.

“That is one of the things I really never focused on much because I always had so little time off. It was one of the things I learned. It was a big help for me and a big help for the way I am feeling and the way I am moving around now.”

Today, Skole is back to doing what he loves: playing in real baseball games.

“I am getting ready for Arizona, playing in games, getting at-bats, playing defense,” Skole said. “I am just trying to get back to being out there for nine innings, being comfortable at the plate. I feel great, I feel fine. I feel like I am ready to go. I head out to Arizona this weekend. Once I get out there, fall is ready to go, it is time to play finally. It has been a long wait, but I am really excited about it.”

Skole played first base almost exclusively last season in Arizona. But this year, he expects to play both first base and third base.

“I am going to playing both, I am going to be playing third and first,” Skole said. “I think it is going to be a little bit of a rotation they will have me on. I know that I am not only exclusively playing first base. I know will be playing third base, as well. I think it will be 50-50, half and half.

“We have been working mostly at third base down here (in Florida), I am just trying to get my versatility. The more positions you can play the better. Who knows what is needed. Hopefully, whenever the call comes I will be able to perform at either one of those positions.”

Still to come: How is Skole’s arm feeling after the surgery? What it will be like to be reunited with a lot of his teammates in Arizona? Do the Nationals envision Skole playing other positions in the future?

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