"I had just the one [outing] and hurt the elbow," Evan DeLuca
said of Spring Training. "Technically it was the UCL strain in my elbow. I ended up taking ten days off from throwing and got right back into it. It feels like it's fully back to health, which is a real good sign."
It was a bitter disappointment at the time for the left-hander as he was considered one of the early favorites to break camp as part of the Charleston RiverDogs' starting rotation in 2011.
"It was a big bummer because I felt I really pitched well in the one outing I had," he said. "Unfortunately sometimes your mechanics fall back a little bit.
"I thought I was keeping my arm up well, but apparently everyone told me it looked I was throwing real low with my arm angle. It only took one pitch for me to drop down too low and it got really tight in my elbow really quickly."
He went from throwing 92-93 mph fastballs to quickly dropping down to the 85 mph range that afternoon in March.
"The first thing they asked me when I walked off the mound after my two innings was ‘is there something wrong with your arm'. I told them there was," he admitted. "After that I had the MRI and they told me it was a strain and nothing too serious.
"With just the way I had been pitching in my bullpens and in batting practices, it seemed like I had a real good shot of potentially making the starting rotation for Charleston. It was a bummer though, especially in your first outing.
"I'm a high-energy guy and having that down time, sitting down and watching everyone throw and not be able to pick up a baseball, it really takes the wind out of your sail."
It was less than two weeks later, however, before he was back up on the mound throwing again. In fact, he has been pitching in Extended Spring Training games for the past three weeks and will make his fourth appearance on Friday afternoon.
"I'm up to three innings in my outings and I could go four on Friday, depending on pitch counts," DeLuca said. "It's been a progression, building up the arm strength.
"Mechanics-wise I was a little shaky and backtracked a little bit, but I've been working with Danny Borrell and that's been a big help. We're just trying to crack down on a couple of things and get some velocity back. Otherwise things are good."
As is the case with most young pitchers, everything from command to health and even velocity, is built on the foundation of strong mechanics.
"The arm angle has actually been a lot more consistent," he said. "It's been up where I want it. It's probably not even a worry at this point.
"It's more about my front side and taking power away from my legs by having my hands separate too high, and having my glove elbow lead through my delivery instead of my legs leading through the delivery. That has taken away some power and strength from my arm."
Health-wise, there is no issue. For DeLuca it is all about syncing his mechanics properly to get the optimal power out of them.
"The arm is feeling strong again and getting out to 150 feet [in long-tossing], it feels effortless," he gladly said. "That was one of the big things, getting the ball out that far and seeing how the ball carries.
"It seems like it's getting out there pretty easily. That's always a big sign for me, how well I can do my long-toss. That's a big, important part for me in getting loose.
"My stuff is there; the fastball, curveball, and changeup. They're all there. It's just building up that arm strength. As far as pain my elbow, that's pretty much all gone. I don't feel it anymore.
"It feels like my elbow is strong and my forearm is strong. Everything around it is getting strong. It's just a mechanics thing at this point, just refining my mechanics and getting everything back up to speed."
The ever-optimistic southpaw is just taking everything one step at a time in an effort to make his full return to health a lasting one for the remainder of the 2011 season.
"It's all stuff that's a quick fix, but I just have to get the muscle memory of it back. It's a little bit of a process but everything seems like it's coming along well ever since I found out what the problem was. We got to the root of the problem and we're fixing it, so it makes me happy," he concluded.
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Evan DeLuca began Spring Training in strong fashion, quickly striking out three batters in two scoreless innings to open up the Spring game schedule but immediately felt a twinge upon leaving the game. Down in Tampa ever since then, he's working on building up his arm strength in Extended Spring Training games.
Evan DeLuca had a mild setback in Spring Training but he's working to get his power back now.