Special Photo. Tulsa's Charlie Blackmon, a North Gwinnett grad, runs the bases during a Class AA Texas League game this season.
Charlie Blackmon's season began on Memorial Day, rather than in early April. Shannon Wilkerson got started on time, but then had his season interrupted.
Injuries are the curse of minor league players determined to show what they can do and move up as quickly as possible. Outfield prospects Blackmon and Wilkerson have both been victims this year.
The time off was the most frustrating for Blackmon, who went into the season ranked as Colorado's 12th-best prospect and getting his first shot in Class AA. But Wilkerson's injury may be the most potentially troublesome.
Blackmon, the former North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech standout, twice strained his left hamstring in spring training. Wilkerson, a former Dacula and Augusta State slugger, injured his left wrist during April and needed surgery on his fractured hamate bone.
Wilkerson is rehabbing at Boston's minor league complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and may be able to return to Greenville of the Class A South Atlantic League by the end of June.
But wrist injuries can be tricky. Blackmon found out the hard way that hamstring injuries can be, too.
"I pulled it right after I got to spring training and then again when I came back after we were playing games this spring," the speedy center fielder said. "It was the same muscle, but not in the same place. It was frustrating to miss so much time. Missing the first two months of the season was really tough."
Blackmon, 23, didn't join Tulsa of the Texas League until the end of May, and it is difficult playing catch-up when you are facing Class AA pitching for the first time.
"The pitchers not only have really good stuff, they can pretty much put the ball where they want it," said Blackmon, who had just five hits in his first 31 at-bats after being installed as the Drillers' leadoff hitter. "The pitching is definitely better than I'd been used to."
The Rockies have no doubt that Blackmon will hit, though. He did at Georgia Tech after a move from the pitching mound and he did in his first two seasons after being a second-round draft choice in 2008.
The left-hander batted .338 for Tri-Cities in the short-season Class A Northwest League and followed that up by hitting .307 with 30 stolen bases for Modesto in the high Class A California League last year.
Wilkerson, 21, played in just eight games for Greenville, batting .258 with a home run and five RBIs. He spent two weeks on the disabled list, returned for a couple of games and then had to have surgery on his wrist.
It was literally a bad break for the right-handed hitter, who got into a few Grapefruit League games with the Red Sox this spring.
Wilkerson was drafted in the eighth round last June after being the NCAA Division II player of the year at Augusta State and terrorizing the Peach Belt Conference. He played with Lowell of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League and Greenville last season.
Jeremie Tice, another college slugger from Dacula, knows about missing time with an injury. The sixth-round pick by Cleveland in 2008 out of the College of Charleston was limited to 69 games last year.
Tice, 23, is back with Lake County in the Class A Midwest League as a result and trying to make up for the time lost. The third baseman was batting .277 with six homers and 40 RBIs through 49 games.
"You can't worry about the time you miss," Blackmon said. "You just have to make the best of the season you have left."