SCOTTSDALE – In every sport, injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. Just ask Nick Ahmed, the veteran shortstop of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost most of the 2022 season to a shoulder injury that ultimately required surgery to repair.
Now, the 33-year-old Ahmed is back and healthy, solidifying the middle of the Diamondbacks defense and providing much-needed leadership to the clubhouse.
“It’s a lot of fun, man. Playing baseball is a lot better than sitting in the training room rehabbing,” Ahmed said. “I’m excited to get back out there. Opening Day is just around the corner, and I’m feeling good and ready to go.”
It was a long road back.
The Diamondbacks placed Ahmed on the injured list due to an injury to his right shoulder – his throwing arm – before the start of the 2022 regular season.
He returned on April 22 and played in a handful of games before the team placed him back on the injured list May 16. He stayed on the list until the middle of June, when he opted to undergo season-ending surgery to clear out soft tissue and bone spurs in the shoulder.
In total, Ahmed played in just 17 games for the Diamondbacks in 2022, recording only 54 plate appearances. He hit .231 with three home runs and seven RBIs while striking out 15 times.
Ahmed was back on the practice field for the Diamondbacks in spring training before a bout of forearm tightness in the opposite arm forced him to miss the first week of spring training games.
He finally returned to game action March 6 against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium and even notched a hit in his first game in 11 months.
Ahmed, while typically known for his defense, has been productive at the plate so far this spring, hitting .250 with two home runs and driving in four in 40 at-bats through 12 games and is ready to return as the team’s everyday shortstop for the 2023 season.
The defensive lift Ahmed provides to the Diamondbacks is evident. He consistently ranks near the top of the NL in defensive stats such as fielding percentage.
But as the longest-tenured Diamondback, his experience and leadership in the clubhouse were missed as much as his glove last season.
“It brings a huge boost having him back,” said Diamondbacks reliever Kyle Nelson. “He’s our vocal leader, and he’s always been that. Just having him around every single day, it’s super exciting. It’s great for the clubhouse and all the young guys around here to have another really good veteran to look toward.”
The Diamondbacks enter the 2023 season with a good mix of youth and experience slotting in as the 15th-oldest roster in the major leagues. It’s a combination that has proven successful for championship teams of the past, and the Diamondbacks hope it’s a combination that can get them to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, when they beat the Rockies in a NL Wild Card game only to be swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
The Diamondbacks also hope Ahmed can help some of the club’s young players develop into solid major leaguers.
One of those young players looking up to Ahmed is backup catcher Jose Herrera, who has only appeared in 47 MLB games. The Venezuelan echoed Nelson’s sentiment about what Ahmed means to the team.
“I think Nick is a great guy. He’s a leader on our team and in this clubhouse,” Herrera said. “Seeing him around in a uniform, healthy, and getting after it is super great for us. We’re so excited to see him opening the season healthy and ready to help us win games.”