This past week was a transitional time period for many of us in rehab. In particular, Matt Torra and Matt Henrie are both beginning to throw off a mound for the first time in several months. I have started to throw for the first time since surgery. Even though it has only been 3 months, it felt great to get outside and throw the baseball around. Of course, our throwing programs are very structured so I wouldn't necessarily say I was just "throwing the ball around," but I was excited to be throwing again.
Throwing programs are very similar for all players in rehab despite their injury. Typically, in the very beginning, a rehabber will start throwing every other day from 45 to 60 feet. This past week, I threw 3 sets of 20 throws from 45 feet and then I advanced to 60 feet on my third day throwing. In my opinion, the best way to break down the throwing portion of rehab is to separate it into three stages. Stage one is the standard throwing program in which a player begins at 45 feet and works his way back to 160 feet, while increasing the number of throws. This is usually performed over the course of one or two months. Bullpen sessions constitute stage two of the progression. This can take place over a few weeks as the pitcher throws more pitches and begins to include curveballs, sliders, or any other type of breaking balls. Finally, in stage three, a rehabber pitches to live hitters in structured, game-like situations. This is the final test to determine if the pitcher is completely healthy and ready to be medically cleared.
Although this rehab process is strictly regimented, the lone variable remains the time-table. Each player has a different time-table based on how quickly his arm is able to adapt to throwing. For some players, the entire throwing process can last only 2 months, whereas, for others, it can exceed 3 months. Of course, if a player experiences a setback, or severe discomfort while throwing, the process can be dragged out even longer since the rehabber typically takes 2 or 3 weeks off before resuming the throwing program. It's always rewarding for a player to battle through this long process and finally get cleared to be able to pitch in games. In fact, all of us in rehab have formed a close-knit group and we all pull for each other to get back out there as soon as possible.
Outside of rehabbing, I had a few busy days over the weekend. On Sunday, Matt Torra and I put on a pitching clinic at a local little league here in Tucson. Our head trainer, Greg Latta, has a son who plays in Sabino Canyon Little League, so Matt and I worked with his son and some of his teammates for an hour or so on pitching. We had a blast teaching these little guys about the mechanics of pitching and different grips for pitches. Working with those youngsters served as a reminder for Matt and I about how fun it is to pitch (and play baseball in general) since we've been away from it for so long. I worked a lot with this taller left-handed pitcher who reminded me of Randy Johnson so I called him the "little unit." I think he enjoyed that comparison.
The Stanford baseball team was also in town this weekend playing a series versus the University of Arizona. Since they were here from Thursday to Sunday, I was able to grab lunch with a bunch of my former teammates and very close friends. On Thursday, I hung out with John Hester (my former roommate at Stanford), Greg Reynolds, Chris Lewis, and Jeremy Bleich. It was great to get to see those guys since I spent so much time with them up on the Farm the past three years. It's interesting to me that once someone is your teammate, it's as if you share a bond for life since you create so many memories through athletics. I also had the opportunity to grab lunch with Coach Kunis, my former pitching coach at Stanford. He was still giving me mechanical tips even while we were eating bread at the Olive Garden. Anyway, after a busy weekend, we're back at it today. It's a lot more fun going to rehab when I know I will get a chance to throw. Just holding a baseball sometimes can give you that exciting feeling.