Phillies prospect Eldemire gets a chance to play after losing time to injury

Gauntlett Eldemire III, 23, is at Lakewood after taking two years to rehabilitate from two separate surgeries on his left wrist.
Gauntlett Eldemire III, 23, is at Lakewood after taking two years to rehabilitate from two separate surgeries on his left wrist. (         TOM PRIDDY / Four Seam Images)
Posted: April 22, 2012

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Gauntlett Eldemire III is the kind of name that grabs your attention, and the Phillies' sixth-round selection in the 2010 draft has the athletic ability needed to keep it.

Only now, nearly two years after the Phillies picked him out of Ohio University, is the lightning-fast outfielder getting a chance to show off his skills. He is playing for the first time professionally at single-A Lakewood, and that alone is a relief for the soft-spoken 23-year-old.

"Yeah, I am pretty happy because I haven't played in two years," Eldemire said before a recent game at the BlueClaws' First Energy Park.

Instead of trying to climb the minor-league ladder with the other players from his draft class, Eldemire was stuck in Clearwater, rehabilitating from two separate surgeries on his left wrist.

"It was rough," he said. "I was in the hotel room by myself down in Clearwater. The La Quinta has those small rooms - it's like you're in jail. And it's rough seeing everybody I got drafted with move up and progress and I wasn't progressing. I was progressing with my wrist, but not baseball-wise."

Until this month, Eldemire's wrist was his professional baseball story.

"I got hit by a pitch in April 2010 [while playing in college] and they misdiagnosed it," he said. "They said it was a bone bruise. I took a week off and then kept playing. I just taped it up and took ibuprofen."

Eldemire hit .398 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs for the Bobcats, then found out after being drafted by the Phillies that he was playing with torn ligaments in his wrist.

"After the physical, my range of motion was limited, so they wanted to look at it with an MRI," he said. "I only had an X-ray before. They saw it was a torn ligament and I had to get surgery. I was kind of scared. I thought they were going to cut up my contract."

He got to keep his $140,000 signing bonus, but during his first minor-league spring training, he developed more wrist pain and it was determined that he had a smaller ligament tear that also required surgery. Another season was lost.

"Domonic Brown helped me out a lot last year," Eldemire said. "He was down in Clearwater rehabbing and I was talking to him a lot. It was really a mental game for me and that's what I talked to Dom about."

Eldemire's professional career is only a couple of weeks old, but the Shaker Heights, Ohio, native has made a favorable first impression.

"What has impressed me most is that he is really laying off bad pitches," Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini said. "He's making pitchers come to him in that leadoff spot and taking advantage of it. When he gets on base, he makes things happen because he can flat-out fly."

Through Friday's games, Eldemire was hitting .240, but thanks to 13 walks had a .397 on-base percentage. He also was second in the South Atlantic League with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts.

Morandini said he never played with anybody in the major leagues who was as fast as Eldemire.

"He may be in Deion Sanders' category when Deion got going," Morandini said.

Scouting reports on Eldemire before the 2010 draft questioned his plate discipline and that part of the game has been a real detriment for former high-ceiling, high-risk draft picks such as Anthony Hewitt and Zach Collier.

"In college, I felt like I tried to do too much," he said. "Here, I'm not trying to do as much as I did in college and I feel like that has made me more selective. When you try to do too much, you tend to swing at the pitcher's pitch instead of the hitter's pitch."

As for Eldemire's attention-grabbing name, there is an interesting story behind it.

"My great-grandfather was German and my great-grandmother was Jamaican, and they got married and had my grandfather and he was mixed," Eldemire said. "They said his life would be like running the gauntlet because he was mixed, and back then that was rough because of segregation and things like that."

Gauntlett Eldemire named his son Gauntlett Jr., and Gauntlett Jr. named his son Gauntlett Eldemire III.

GE3 hopes to one day electrify baseball fans in Philadelphia.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or on Twitter @brookob.

 

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