A Scrapper last year, the outfielder is back while recovering from a crash into a wall.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Can Dennis Malave walk on water?
Probably not in the literal sense. It's just Mahoning Valley Scrappers manager Dave Turgeon's way of voicing his overwhelming respect for the native of Caracas, Venezuela.
"If you can find a better human being in this world, let me know," Turgeon said. "I wish he was my son. He's awesome."
Malave's leadership and hard work are what Turgeon admires. But that's not all.
"You're not going to find a nicer person in this game than Denny Malave," Turgeon said. "As nice as he is, he plays that hard."
Scrappers catcher Angel Bastardo said, "He says 'hi' to everybody. Before he goes home, he says 'bye' to everybody, shaking their hands. He just picks everybody up, and they respect him for that."
Last year: Malave played in 42 games at Mahoning Valley last season, batting .298, with two home runs and 26 RBIs.
His return to the Class-A short-season level stems from an injury he suffered during an off-season program in January, when he crashed into a center-field wall and broke his wrist in three places.
The injury forced Malave to undergo two surgeries -- one in Venezuela, another in Baltimore.
"I'm getting back to where I was before," Malave said. "I'm getting ready as soon as I can to help the team."
Only recently has Malave started to play again.
"It's going to take him a while," Turgeon said. "He hasn't played since winter ball. This is his spring training. This is the first time he's seen a live arm on the mound, and that's tough."
His first game back was a three-inning stint Sunday in the Scrappers' 8-5 victory over Jamestown. He played another three innings Monday in the team's 5-4 loss to the Jammers.
Malave made his first game appearance at Cafaro Field on Wednesday, playing six innings in a 6-1 loss to Staten Island. His fourth game this season, in which he played six innings, came Thursday in the Scrappers' 4-1 defeat to the Yankees.
Game plan: Malave said he will take tonight off, then try to play nine innings Saturday at Williamsport.
Although Malave has no hits in four at-bats, he realizes patience is key to his comeback.
"It's exciting, especially playing for this team and these people because I know the people here like baseball and love this team," Malave said.
If healthy, Malave probably would have reported to Class-A full-season Kinston (N.C.) to begin the season. Circumstances, however, have forced him to work his way back slowly.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm glad to be here, and I'm going to do the best I can to get to a higher level."