CLEARWATER, Fla. – Didi Gregorius painted a nasty picture of what it was like for him last year: Constant pain and swelling in his right elbow. A rash on his body. Daily vomiting.
It's all behind him now.
He's fully healthy.
"It's a big relief," he said before his first official workout of the spring in Phillies camp Monday.
"This is where I wanted to be last year but things happen and you've got to move forward from that."
Gregorius played most of 2021 with painful inflammation in his right elbow. He spent time on the injured list after landing on the elbow while making a lunging catch in April. He pressed on. The pain and swelling did not go away. He was eventually diagnosed with a condition called pseudogout. He took anti-inflammatory medicine for the condition. He said it upset his stomach so badly that he threw up every day after he started taking it. He said his problems were exacerbated when he had a negative reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Everyone thinks that I made lies up," he said. "But I had a really bad reaction."
Gregorius ended up having the worst year of his career. He hit .209 with a .639 OPS in 103 games. Defensively, he was one of the worst shortstops in the majors with 18 errors and minus-10 runs saved, according to Fangraphs data.
During the final weekend of the season, manager Joe Girardi and president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski met with Gregorius, whose contract runs through the end of this season at $15 million. They told him that he'd need to be better to keep his job in 2022.
Gregorius believes he's ready to do that because he's healthy.
He said he never had pseudogout last year, that the inflammation in his elbow was caused by bone spurs. He had them surgically removed in October. His bad reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine has also cleared.
"I had to play like that because I told them I didn't want to miss any games," Gregorius said. "I wasn't my best. I couldn't swing. I couldn't extend. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't throw, so my throws were going all over the place. And swinging, if I can't extend it, I couldn't hit any pitch. The only pitches I was hitting were mostly pitches away. I even backed off the plate so I could kind of get extended. I was going through a lot last year, but that's behind my back. I'm ready to go now."
Gregorius, 32, will have to hold off 24-year-old Bryson Stott, the organization's top position-player prospect and a former first-round pick, to keep his starting shortstop position.
"I view myself as (the starting shortstop), but that's up to them," Gregorius said. "So just control what I can control and we go from there.
"Every year is a competition. Once you're on top, you compete with the guy underneath you. It's always a competition, doesn't matter. Whoever gets called up, you want everybody to feel comfortable because this is a team. You don't want to fight the guy that comes up because everybody needs to be together to win. If we're divided, we're not going to win."
Gregorius revealed that in his end-of-season chat with Girardi and Dombrowski, he was told that he might play some third base in 2022. He said he worked out at the position on his own this winter. For Gregorius to move to third, a few things would have to happen: 1) He'd have to be healthy and productive with the bat; 2) Stott would have to be ready; and 3) Alec Bohm would have to be out of the picture at the position, either through an assignment to the minors, a trade or a move to first base if, for some reason, Rhys Hoskins was not playing the position.
That's a lot of hypotheticals.
The best bet is that a healthy (and proud) Gregorius rises to the occasion and seizes the shortstop position.
"He dealt with injuries and frustrations all of last year," Girardi said. "His body was not up to par.
"This is a game of production. You have to produce to play. He had a tough year, but he didn't feel good for much of the year, so I expect a much different player."
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