How has a return from injury for this Tigers prospect helped to spark the Erie SeaWolves?

Detroit Free Press

Erie SeaWolves manager Gabe Alvarez couldn’t be happier to see Dillon Dingler walk into the clubhouse in Bowie.

It was the spark his team needed after a rough April.

Dingler, fresh off rehabilitating from a meniscus injury, has rejuvenated the SeaWolves over the past two weeks.

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“Getting Dillon (Dingler) and Andrew (Navigato) back has been a huge lift for us on the field and in the clubhouse,” Alvarez said. “Dillon is such a pro and his receiving and game-calling have been a huge lift for us, no doubt.”

The ‘Wolves finished April 8-13 and sat 5½ games back from first place. In the two weeks since Dingler’s arrival, Erie is 9-3 and now half a game back of first place after nearly sweeping first-place Richmond this past week.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be back,” Dingler said. “I was definitely missing it while I was rehabbing. I missed coming back to Erie and it’s good to be back here with these guys.”

Dingler, 24, wasted no time helping out as he homered in the first two games in Bowie, including a four-RBI game in a 12-7 win. He had eight hits in his first four games and is hitting .351 with three home runs and 14 RBIs with the SeaWolves.

“It’s good for me to come back here and learn the new guys and how they play the game,” Dingler said. “I need to learn how to work with them and click with the guys I know. The transition is super easy when you have a talented staff with guys that have electric stuff. It makes my job way easier behind the plate to execute pitches, and I have high expectations for these guys.”

Dingler, a second-round pick out of Ohio State as a catcher and the No. 14 prospect overall for the Tigers, had to pull out of the prestigious Arizona Fall League because of his meniscus injury. He had arthroscopic surgery and was walking four days later.

After a four-to-six-week recovery, Dingler was ready to go.

“I feel great. I was battling it for a little bit, but I feel much better after the surgery,” Dingler said. “I was back quicker than I anticipated and all the credit goes to our physical therapy staff and our medical staff. They got me where I needed to be and strengthened my knee to where it needs to be and then some.”

Dingler knew the key was confidence in adjusting to his knee, and once he started getting comfortable, he was ready for game action.

“Once I got into the deep squats and had more movement in my knee, I was able to get over the mental part of it,” Dingler said. “One I caught a few pitches, it was fine.”

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Dingler’s hot bat, cool clubhouse presence

Not only did Dingler impress right away in Bowie, but he’s also had several clutch moments at UPMC Park. In addition to a home run this past week, Dingler came through on Wednesday in front of 3,153 fans during an Education Day game.

After seven scoreless innings, Dingler ripped a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the SeaWolves a 1-0 lead.

“It’s great having him back here,” said SeaWolves prospect pitcher Ty Madden. “He’s a great clubhouse guy and obviously fun to have at the plate, as well.”

Madden tossed five scoreless innings in the win and the Erie bullpen threw four.

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Red-hot ‘Wolves in May

Whether it was the momentum of new players or simply fate, the ‘Wolves dominated Richmond all week. After two quick wins, the SeaWolves trailed 5-4 in the ninth inning on Thursday with two outs. Grant Witherspoon hit a groundball to first that was booted instead of ending the game. Gage Workman followed with a double before Daniel Cabrera hit a walk-off single to give Erie a 6-5 win.

One day later the Erie bullpen tossed four scoreless innings in a 6-1 win and the ‘Wolves pitchers allowed two earned runs in a 4-2 win on Saturday. Erie almost pulled off its second six-game sweep in franchise history on Sunday but lost 7-3. The only six-game sweep by the ‘Wolves was Aug. 9-14 in New Hampshire.

What’s next?

The SeaWolves head to Harrisburg this week before hosting Trenton in another playoff rematch from 2022. There are just six series left in the first half of the season before a team clinches the first-half crown.

Contact Tom Reisenweber at treisenweber@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNreisenweber.

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