Brooks Lee happy to be back with Saints, ready to keep fighting back issues

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Wednesday night marked the return to action for first time this season for Brooks Lee, the consensus No. 2 prospect in Twins organization. The former first-round pick looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in helping the Saints to a  5-1 win over the Syracuse Mets at CHS Field.

Lee missed the first 56 games of the season after sustaining a herniated disc in his lower back near the end of spring training. He rejoins the Saints after a 10-game rehab assignment split between the Florida Coast League Twins and Class-A Fort Myers, where he hit .395 with 5 RBI.

Batting in the cleanup spot and playing shortstop, Lee broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single to left. It proved to be the game-winning hit.

Lee also made a standout play in the field, going into the hole at shortstop to take a hit away in the fourth inning.

“Just happy,” he said when asked how it felt to be back on the field. “Luckily, I got a hit and made a few plays, but just enjoying being with my teammates again. That love for the game never goes away, because it has been taken away from me so many times. So, no matter how I’m playing, just grateful to be on the field.”

Lee said he has dealt with back issues dating back to high school, when he missed his entire sophomore season.

“I’ve been dealing with the same thing — same pain, same flare-ups,” he said. “It feels like I have been trying to find that magic bullet and I haven’t found it yet. I don’t know if there is one; maybe a culmination of a bunch of different things.

“We’ll see if I ever figure it out. It will be a challenge, but I’m ready to take that on.”

Playing through pain has been the norm for Lee throughout his competitive baseball career. But this one proved too painful.

“It hadn’t been that bad in a long time,” he said.

Now that he’s back, Lee will have to continue to do pre- and postgame exercises to strengthen the back and keep it loose, but he said the key will not trying to do too much.

“I know I work hard, but not do too many reps of ground balls, early work or hitting before the game,” he said. “Making sure I’m ready for the game but not doing too much. That’s going to be a hard thing for me to do because I like to work through things.”

The Saints (25-31) have struggled offensively through the first two months of the season, but the return of Lee is but one reason to suggest that things could be looking up in that regard. The addition of Edouard Julien, who was sent down by the Twins on Tuesday, should provide a spark at the top of the order.

It did on Wednesday. Julien batted in the leadoff spot and hit a home run on the first pitch he faced. He nearly had a second homer in the sixth, flying out to the fence in left field.

Matt Wallner had a single in three at-bats to go along with a walk. He came into the game with seven hits in his previous 24 at-bats. All seven hits were for extra bases — three doubles and four home runs.

However, the Saints will be without outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. during the current homestand. He has been placed on the 7-day injured list due to a left calf strain. Keirsey Jr. leads the team with a .302 batting average, 43 RBI and 16 stolen bases.


Michael Helman followed Lee’s RBI single in the sixth with a three-run home run.

Louie Varland is scheduled to start Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader.

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