Washington is focused on a comeback in 2013
Some people work to live, while others live to work. Cleveland Indians’ centerfielder LeVon Washington prefers the latter. After all, not many players kick off the offseason by stopping at Home Depot for a bottle of superglue.
Washington, 21, was drafted by the Indians during the second round of the 2010 amateur draft. In 2009, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but did not sign with the team.
After three seasons with the Indians organization, Washington has certainly accumulated a following. Since his first season, the Gainesville, Florida native has grown exponentially, despite a minor setback last season, which has him aiming for a major comeback.
The offseason is anything but time off for Washington, who’s held onto his bat from the start.
“I put some superglue on my hands and I picked up my bat, and my bat’s been stuck to my hands ever since I got home,” he said.
It may be an unconventional approach to dedication, but it is dedication nonetheless to make up for lost time. Less than a month into the 2012 season, Washington was shut down with a torn labrum in his right hip.
Washington explained that the transition from the warm Arizona weather to the cold, northern Ohio temperatures in April made a significant impact. He also noted that in Arizona, he had access to more accommodating facilities that aided his health.
“I didn’t have access to all that stuff and over time, playing out there in that cold weather, as soon as I stopped playing, I knew at that point I’d probably need surgery,” Washington said.
Once he learned he needed surgery, Washington remained in Lake County for two weeks before going under the knife. He was hitting a team-leading .440 at the time with a 1.043 OPS through six games.
From then on, it was all about making a return to the field. Washington had surgery on his hip in Vail, Colorado on April 30th and started rehabbing that same night. Much of his early rehab consisted of stretching, strengthening and riding a stationary bike. Once he could walk, he started running, making every attempt possible to strengthen his hip.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Washington looks at the injury as something merely written in the stars beyond his control.
“I just feel like for me, it’s always been hard, it’s never been easy for me,” he said. “I just feel like some things were meant to happen. I feel that it was meant for that to happen and now, I can be healthy hopefully and just focus on what I’ve got to do. I can’t really control getting hurt, I can just control when I get back in the game.”
Getting back into the game required a tremendous amount of time and energy, but by August, Washington made it back to the field. He spent three games on rehab assignment with the Arizona League Indians, where he hit .444 with a pair of RBIs and stolen bases.
Washington joined the high-A Carolina Mudcats toward the end of August, a league which he had never experienced before. It’s no secret that the Carolina League is tough, but Washington prefers to merely see it as the same game he’s always played.
“I got kind of an advantage to go back up there and see the league, but it’s a lot different than anything I’ve ever played in, but I don’t think it’s anything I can’t handle,” he explained. “It’s still baseball.”
Washington knows that even though it’s still baseball, it’s going to be considerably more competitive. He’s up for the challenge though, and is simply aiming to keep himself on the field next season.
“I’m just trying to be healthy and go out there and play,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the same. You’ve still got to throw the ball over the plate.”
When the ball crosses the plate next season, Washington will be ready. He’s been working nonstop to improve his game, including a few adjustments to his swing. Washington explained that he has eliminated the leg kick from his swing, and has changed the position of his hands. He worked on such adjustments in the Parallel League during the fall, which he feels was an asset to his game.
“I changed my swing when I was in the Parallel League,” he explained. “That’s why I wanted to go to that league, so I could get the opportunity to work on something new, and that’s what I did down there. I wasn’t really concerned about how I was hitting.” Washington added that he doesn’t even recall getting a hit the first week. By the end of the instructional season, he was raking a hit or two every game.
The adjustments he’s made are all part of his plan to come out strong by the time spring training returns, and he hopes that his major comeback will live up to its term.
“When I go into spring training, I’m trying to take someone’s big league job,” he said. “Whether they put me in Akron, or Carolina or Lake County, I don’t have any control over that.”
High standards are no surprise from Washington, but he hopes to shock the world with his comeback. The pressure of being a high draft pick has been passed on, and Washington has put his shades on to the spotlight.
“I really don’t want anybody on me,” he said. “I want to be underneath the radar and just kind of pop up like Jeremy Lin did out of nowhere, and people will be like, ‘Oh, he can play baseball.’”
Washington doesn’t need to replicate “Linsanity” though. He has his own catch phrase: “Wash Time.”
The phrase originated as Washington was in the car on his way to the movies. He says he tweeted the phrase, and it caught on. 1,897 Twitter followers later, several Cleveland fans have taken it to heart, creating a formidable fanbase for Washington.
Regardless, Washington has taken a leave of absence from Twitter. He says his comeback to Twitter may accompany his comeback on the diamond.
“You’ve got to be doing something more than what I have done,” he said. “I don’t need to be tweeting right now. Maybe when I’m satisfied, I’ll get back on Twitter.”
Until then, it’s nonstop work.
“Off days, I like to pine tar my bat up,” he said. “I like to go out there and shag, I like to run sprints. That’s what I do for fun.”
The fun doesn’t stop for Washington, and his quest for a major comeback is promising. Time was not lost or wasted last season, despite his injury, because for Wash Time, the clock is just getting started.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.
On another note, this guy is a joke. He acts like he's already an All-Star and is known for making stupid decisions around scouting circles. "WashTime" was on base one time and he tried to steal a base while the pitcher was staring directly at him. Unbelievable. He's injury prone and his swing is UGLY. He's never going to hit.
The Indians were suckers giving this guy a million plus.
My nephew will shine and always stay HUMBLE
Nobody seemed to get through to him. As I recall, when the Indians kept Ramon Vazquez a journeyman and let Phillips go he got a chance to play through injury and immediately started hitting.
Anyway, I'm one of the biggest Washington supporters around. I just want him to be healthy and show what he can do over a full season. This is a big year for him as he has to start progressing, or he is going to be left behind for good.
Do agree that he has a lot to prove...don't agree that he's "not a prospect" yet Rich...
Although I do believe this will be the year thta dictates how much time, effort and money the Indians will invest in is progress.
Could see a massive rebound here, but agree that he has a lot to improve...tot he franchise, and to himself...
This guy is looking like the next Nick Weglarz. Until he proves he can stay healthy for an entire season he's not much of a prospect in my opinion.