BRIDGEWATER — Brandon Lockridge typically spends all offseason working out and eating properly to put on 10 pounds, so nothing could prepare him — or any baseball player — for the scary episode that took place two weeks ago on a road trip from Binghamton.
While the Somerset Patriots were coming back home, Lockridge stopped and ate cooked sushi and fried rice from a Chinese establishment, and a burger with fried egg from another restaurant.
About 12 hours later in his sleep, all hell broke loose.
“One of those two places I got some type of bacterial food poisoning, and it kicked my butt for about a week,” Lockridge said. “I had to go to the doctor multiple times to get a new antibiotic, and it was bad.”
So bad, in fact, that Lockridge lost about seven pounds in five days. This came while on a liquid diet—essentially broths, juices and water—for about four days as prescribed by his doctor.
Instead of normally consuming 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day, the 25-year-old outfielder was suddenly intaking fewer than 500.
“I’m already a thin, not-much-fat-on-me guy, so every pound I feel. It was tough,” Lockridge said. “If I ate anything solid it was immediately like, I was pain.”
Lockridge dealt with stomach symptoms from being both sick and starving, which he said felt like the flu at first because he had sweats and chills. Sustained sleep at night was difficult, and he constantly had to get up to use the bathroom.
Luckily he tested negative for COVID-19, and after a few days he was able to eat solid foods again.
“They thought one type of antibiotic would work. It wasn’t reacting the way they wanted, so they switched the antibiotics later in the week and then within 24 to 48 hours I was feeling a lot better,” Lockridge said. “Then it was kind of just getting my strength back, getting back active after probably literally not leaving my room for six days.”
While taking different antibiotics and easing back into conditioning after being so tired, Lockridge ended up missing nine games before returning to Somerset’s lineup last Thursday in New Hampshire.
The main objectives have been getting his legs back under him and feeling strong again, so the Yankees did not want to rush Lockridge and risk an injury. When he first resumed games, he was fouling off good pitches instead of hammering them simply because he still felt weak.
Patriots players have more time to lift weights when the team is stationed at home, so it helped that Somerset began a six-game series Tuesday against Hartford at TD Bank Ballpark. That marked Lockridge’s first home game since May 22.
“I started feeling good by the end of the week last week,” Lockridge said. “Definitely I could tell the weight is a little bit down, but I’m not gonna make any excuses. I’ve just got to show up and make a little bit of improvement every day.”
Gaining weight is far more difficult than losing weight for someone with Lockridge’s 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame, but as of Tuesday he had already regained two pounds. He doesn’t suspect it will take him too long to return to his normal physique, but the process of doing so midseason is challenging.
“It’s just making a conscious effort of prepping food, whether it’s on the road, going to Chipotle every day, loading up on double meat and everything — making a point to get up early in the morning to where I can eat a breakfast and a lunch before I come to the field,” Lockridge said. “A lot of times it’s easy to fall into the routine of sleep in, I’ll eat one meal, go to the field and now you’re only getting that amount of calories, where you’re supposed to get twice as much. Really it’s just making a conscious effort to eat. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches now, a lot of rice, pastas, anything I can to get as much nutrients as possible.”
Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Yankees’ 17th-best minor league prospect thanks to being a rangy center fielder with high-end speed and solid power, Lockridge is also aiming to get back on track from a production standpoint.
He entered this week’s homestand with a modest .241/.308/.381 hitting line with four home runs and 25 RBI in 49 games — a slow start that sits in stark contrast to when he burst onto the Double-A scene last year with a .328 average, .557 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 43 games.
Lockridge showed signs of shaking off his slow start by hitting a home run prior to the food poisoning, and in his first three games back, he collected five hits including two doubles.
“My hard-hit percentage, hard contact is essentially the exact same as it was last year. I’m not hitting balls in the air, though, as often as I was last year. So it’s harder to have as much success I guess you could say,” Lockridge said. “Balls on the ground are a lot easier to defend than balls in the air hit at the same hard contact, so that’s a subtle adjustment of making a conscious effort in your work to get the ball in the air more often. Whether that’s timing purposes, bat path — there’s a lot of things that go into it — and the difficult part is trying to figure that out and how to improve that in-season when you’re playing every day without throwing your groove off.”
His recent health scare unfortunately did throw his groove off, but Lockridge believes all of that is behind him and now is the time to turn his season around.
“The big thing is just showing up every day and keeping a level head and just pushing on,” Lockridge said. “A bad day doesn’t define you and a good day doesn’t define you. It’s just showing up and being the same guy every day and trying to help your team win.”