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PN Interview: Aaron Altherr’s strength, confidence blossoming in 2017

Aaron Altherr started to turn heads at the end of the 2015 season. He was called up in mid-August and hit .241/.338/.489 in 37 games. More impressively, 20 of Altherr’s 33 hits went for extra bases. He was primed to compete for a starting job last season.

Then, on March 4, 2016, Altherr failed to make a diving catch in a spring training game and injured his wrist. His shot as an everyday starting outfielder went out the window … just like that.

Altherr retuned on July 28 and went 3-for-4 with a home run. But his season didn’t end how he envisioned, playing in just 57 games with a .197 average and a .288 slugging percentage. The wrist injury costed Altherr an entire year of his career.

The lowest point of that injury?

“Probably when I first started out rehabbing,” Altherr said in an interview Thursday at Dynasty Sports and Framing in the Oxford Valley Mall. “Just not knowing how long it was going to take and almost getting a little depressed. It came to a point where I was not making any progress and it was like, ‘Alright, this is never going to get healed.’ Obviously, eventually, things healed up and got back to playing again.”

In the majors, sometimes you only get one chance. And Altherr’s dream was almost snatched away from something that was out of his control. One could say the outfielder was snake-bitten.

“Especially having a really good chance to make the team out of spring training for the first time,” Altherr said of his missed opportunity last year. “It definitely was a little disappointing and frustrating. That’s the way things happen. Injuries happen in baseball, just have to find a way to overcome them and get past them.”

And man, has he ever. With the additions of veteran outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, making the team wasn’t a given. He had to earn his keeps in spring training, something he couldn’t partake in last year. Altherr dazzled, hitting .303/.395/.591 with half his hits going for extra bases. Pete Mackanin chose Altherr as his fourth outfielder for opening day and, ironically, an injury to Kendrick led to a big opportunity.

He hasn’t looked back.

The Arizona native has been the brightest spot of a floundering Phillies team that has gone 6-24 in its last 30 games. He’s hitting .299/.388/.549 with 12 doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBI, leading the Phils in almost all major offensive categories.

He’s feeling stronger than he has ever felt in his career.

“Definitely stronger, you can say, more confident,” he said of his present game. “Just knowing that I’m 100 percent healed and knowing my swing is where it needs to be and my wrist is where it needs to be and mentally I’m where I need to be. I’m playing with a whole lot more confidence than last year.”

The Phils will need his confidence to spread if they’re going to turn around this otherwise disappointing season.

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