Even after homering in return, Dickerson still being patient with his swing

MIAMI – It had been 46 days since Corey Dickerson’s last at-bat in a major league game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk over the Nationals’ first two games of the season before landing on the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain.

So, forgive him for not wasting any time in giving the Nats a big swing when he stepped to the plate for the first time last night, his first game since being activated off the IL on Monday.

Dickerson jumped on the second pitch he saw from Marlins starter Edward Cabrera, a 97 mph sinker right down the middle of the plate and crushed it 432 feet into the right-field upper deck of loanDepot Park. The ball left his bat at 109 mph, the fastest exit velocity by any hitter last night to go along with the furthest distance of any hit ball.

“That was one of those that I finally got my timing the way I wanted working on it down there (on his rehab assignment),” he said after the 4-3 loss. “And yeah, it's one of those you don't forget. But it's also good to have just a hard hit ball just so you can remember. That's good going forward. You can keep that in the back of your mind and know that you did it and you're not having to search for it. You know it's in there. So just get your work in and compete.”

All of his frustrations from the past month and a half let out on his first swing. That poor baseball.

It could have been even more frustrating for the veteran when you consider he missed 33 games last year with the Cardinals with the same injury. But Dickerson credited the Nats training staff for getting him physically ready while also keeping him mentally in the zone.

“I think a lot of people play into that. It's not just me,” he said. “Great job helping me, especially speaking positive things to me. Build me up, tell me what I used to be, what I still can do. The training staff tried to get me as strong as possible. But also, I remember (Albert) Pujols telling me to hit a lot off the machine. If you can hit the machine and train your eyes and train your body to still react to high velocity, you'll be fine when you come back. I still remember that today and he's one of the greatest hitters to ever do it. So just trying to get the work in and trust myself.”

Dickerson didn’t seem like he missed a beat. Being able to take swings while he nursed his calf also certainly helped.

He started a rally in the seventh with a leadoff single to right, eventually coming all the way around to score the Nats’ last run of the evening on an Alex Call groundout.

Although he finished 2-for-4 with the two-run homer and two runs scored, Dickerson couldn’t keep the Nats’ last chance in the ninth going. With a runner on first, he grounded into a force out at second and then was a part of the game-ending double play.

“At times, it could be better,” Dickerson said of his approach. “But also, we strung together some good at-bats right there. We were really close. You're always disappointed when you get out or get out in the last inning. And those guys, I mean tip your cap. (Dylan) Floro and those guys pitching back end of the bullpen. They're good for a reason. It's hard to hit. You have to understand that. And as a player, we have short memories. You just gotta go give it your best shot and tip your cap when you lose, but you hate it. You compete. You hate when you lose. So you look forward to the next time.”

The next time could come again today as the Nats face another right-hander in Eury Perez. Dickerson will continue to get most of his at-bats against righties as the only left-handed bat in the outfield (excluding Jake Alu, who has played in left field during his short time in the majors) and to provide some power while Joey Meneses is on the paternity list.

But Dickerson knows he missed a significant amount of time and it’s still going to be a process to get back into the full swing of things.

“It's trying not to catch up to the other guys. You know what I mean?” he said. “I'm a hundred and something at-bats away for those guys. So try not to get five hits in one at-bat and understand that it might take a little bit of time. I think I've got eight at-bats down there in the minor leagues. Just be ready to hit it. Make sure my timing is good and start adjusting and letting the game come to me. But that's the big thing is don't try to do too much too early.”

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