Kris Bryant has landed back on the IL today with a lower back strain after being active for just two games.
Bryant was first placed on the IL April 26 with back soreness, and underwent a month-long rehab process that culminated in him receiving a cortisone shot on May 8. The shot was meant to accelerate the healing process and removed him from rehab activities for a week before he was able to resume exercise. Things were trending upwards and he was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque for a brief rehab assignment.
In his first game, he went 1-for-3 while playing seven innings. The following night he went 1-for-4 with a double. He was called back up to the Rockies roster three days later on May 21 when they hosted the Mets, ending his 21-game absence. But he didn’t look like he was adjusting well to the speed of the game. In four at-bats, Bryant struck out twice and managed a single in the 5-1 loss. He suited up again the next day, and while he had a more disciplined approach – drawing two walks – he still struck out once and recorded no hits.
The decision to send Bryant back to the IL wasn’t an easy one for the Rockies, considering how poorly their offense has been as of late, but a necessary one. Bryant was clearly uncomfortable, and always seemed one step behind. He has always been a good hittier (career .278 / .376 / .501), so when he looks lost at the plate you know it’s bad.
Back pain is common in baseball due to both throwing and hitting motions putting mechanical stress on the lumbar (lower) spine. By all accounts, Bryant has avoided back issues for much of his career, which may be why the Rockies are so concerned with the current developments. Chronic lower back pain has claimed the careers of many baseball players, and can lead to more serious injuries, such as spondylolysis.
Identifying the cause of the pain is going to be the most important step in preventing it moving forward. Team doctors will analyze how his swing has changed over time and if his body is mechanically in sync.
He may also be lacking in core strength and flexibility; it’s worth noting Bryant suffered an oblique injury in 2020. The obliques run along the side of the abdominal muscles and are important in rotational movements. If Bryant changed his swing to alleviate oblique pain, it may have caused his lower back to see increased load, resulting in the pain he is feeling now.
Bryant Season Slashline – .270 / .342 / .333