“It might be time to let him go somewhere, like Clearwater or something.”
–Charlie Manuel, via Matt Gelb
“Hey, Chuck!” Chase exclaimed, having a seat before Charlie Manuel could offer him one.
He spun it around to give it the old “A.C. Slater” but both Charlie and Rich Dubee–standing in the corner with his arms folded–eyed the maneuver with concern/fury. Chase thought better of it and sat down “correctly.” The knee had only recently stopped hurting, and even less recently stopped talking to him in its haunting, gravelly tone. There was no reason to aggravate it back into the world.
“Hi, Chase,” Charlie replied. “Have a seat.”
Everyone took a moment to let the redundancy of Charlie’s offer slip out the office door and back into Raul Ibanez’s equipment bag, where it continued to infect all of his belongings.
“How you feeling?” Charlie asked.
Chase’s head bobbed up and down like a toy sailboat. “Better! Watch this–”
He hopped up, ignoring that both Charlie and Rich lurched forward in surprise at his rapidity of movement, and delivered a roundhouse kick to the back of the chair. It clattered against the nearby wall and careened back out the open doorway, crashing into a confused Raul Ibanez, who was standing over his equipment bag, scratching his head in confusion as to what it was doing open. He crumpled to the floor without a fight.
Chase turned and nodded triumphantly at his manager. He’d been rehearsing the chair-kick all afternoon with Rich Dubee, even though Rich had said “Don’t do that,” and “I’m serious, that’s fucking stupid,” on multiple occasions. Dubee knew that Chase’s usual cold, silent demeanor was being abandoned at the moment, as progress toward his recovery had actually been made and filled the second baseman with a childlike giddiness that was both uncharacteristic and annoying as hell.
While the lineup could certainly use an offensive punch and morale booster, Dubee had silently wished Chase would go back to being the frigid, methodical psychopath in a windbreaker he’d been for the last few months during his stint on the DL. They’d never gotten along better.
Charlie shut the door on Raul’s broken body and looked Chase in the eye. “Chase, its obvious how much your presence means to this team.”
“And we would of course like to have you around.”
Chase looked at Dubee, who somehow managed to sternly fold his arms despite them already being folded.
“But it seems like the best idea right now is for you to go away for awhile.”
Dubee didn’t hear a quiet rush of wind sweep through the room, but he certainly felt it. Chase’s mood dropped from puppyish to corrosive. Raul’s groans from outside as he slowly regained consciousness seemed to fit nicely with the room’s new temperament.
“I don’t understand.”
“Chase, you’ve got to get better, and you’re getting better, but there’s nothing you can do here, with us, at the moment. We’re sending you down to Clearwater to possibly get into some extended spring training games, and then work your way up to a rehab start.”
Charlie was surprised at the lack of wherewithal on Chase’s part. The guy was a professional baseball player. At the moment he seemed to be acting like a bizarre characterization of himself that somebody had just made up on the spot.
“This is part of the game, and you’ll be back. We hope its sooner rather than later.”
Chase nodded, but this time it was less like a toy sailboat, and more like a dead family pet gently circling the waters of an off-season above ground pool.
“Yeah. All right.”
He got up and opened Charlie’s office door. Outside, Ryan Howard was stepping over Raul without noticing he was there. He picked up the chair that had wound up in front of his locker and looked around the room viciously.
“Kendrick, I told you to stop trying to play pranks on people,” RyHo demanded. “Putting a broken chair in front of my locker isn’t clever. It doesn’t even make sense.”
Kyle popped his head out of the video room. “It wasn’t me!”
A broken chair hurdling towards him caused Kyle to duck back inside as quickly as he’d appeared. He locked the door this time. The last thing he needed was for everyone else to figure out he was in there watching Zoobilee Zoo.
Charlie and Dubee watched Chase collect his things.
“He’ll be fine,” Charlie uttered, confused as to why he had to say it out loud.
Dubee shook his head. That had been his favorite chair.