Mullee Back On The Mound

Mullee has already made two appearances

Nearly a year after Tommy John surgery took Connor Mullee out of the game last season, the right-handed pitcher is back on the mound and remaining positive about his recovery. Mullee debuted in Staten Island Yankees pinstripes in a shutout inning against the Brooklyn Cyclones during their season opener Monday night.

A 24th round pick in the 2010 draft, Connor Mullee was sent to the GCL Yankees and put up impressive numbers with a 1.64 earned run average in 22 innings pitched. Destined for greatness, Mullee surprised everybody with his newly acquired 95 mph fastball, and then GCL Yankees Manager, Tommy Slater, described him as, "athletic as can be."

There's no doubt that his athleticism and commitment attributed to his speedy recovery after a detrimental injury to his elbow put his success on hold last season. Not even a year out of Tommy John Surgery, a healthy Mullee is back on the mound.

"It felt good, it felt really good," Mullee said of his game day debut against the Cyclones. "I missed all of last year cause I got hurt during Spring Training last year. But it just felt so good to be out there competing again, you know. It felt good to face hitters in a real game and to actually have a stat line.

"I pitched in the GCL my first year where there's no fans at all, you know. And then to come out here my first game back it was really exciting," Mullee added. "My parents came up. So I guess there were a little bit of nerves, but mostly I just felt confident about it. I felt really good about it."

Staten Island Yankees pitching coach Carlos Chantres claims that Mullee's positive demeanor has everything to do with his return.

"He's a good kid. He's extremely positive. I don't think there is a negative bone in his body," Chantres laughed. "He likes to have fun and wants to pitch and get to the big leagues."

Mullee admits he was disappointed at the time, but he's ready to put the past behind him and focus on this season.

"Yeah, I mean, it was disappointing," Mullee shrugged. "I tried to rehab my way back for a couple of months before I got surgery. But it's one of those things, you know, it happens, it's part of the game. I'm just trying to look forward from here and not look back.

"I started throwing bullpens around February. I was slow at first," Mullee added. "You know, they took me real slow. But I finally started facing hitters about three weeks ago and I got my first inning the other day and I'm fully back now."

Picking up where he left off pre-surgery, Mullee is currently working on improving his slider.

"I throw a slider and a changeup," Mullee said of his secondary pitches as of late. "My slider is actually coming along pretty nicely. I was a converted shortstop out of college to a pitcher so it took me a while to get that down. But it's really coming along."

Although the velocity to his fastball isn't quite where it was before the surgery, his mechanics are keeping it alive.

"Real good, real good," Staten Island Yankees manager Justin Pope commented of Mullee's first competitive inning pitched. "He was pounding the strike zone, had some zip on his fast ball, [and his] breaking ball looked good."

Coach Chantres has confidence in Mullee's improvements to his fastball after Tommy John, and trusts that his power will return.

"He was injured, and he got to us late [during Extended Spring Training] cause he was on a rehab from Tommy John," Chantres said. "But when he was throwing the bullpens, what I saw was really good; better arm angle, better life to his fastball, and he's really got much better.

"His slider has gotten better. His fastball commands - the kid throws strikes. His velocity isn't where it was one or two years ago, but not even a year at out Tommy John and he looks pretty good," Chantres added. "I think it's going to take time since he just got out, but that power is going to be there."

Although his health is back and he is making rapid strides forward, Mullee seems to be on the same page as the coaching staff in terms of the importance of taking things slow.

"I would say he is going through a little bit of therapy [still], because we are taking him slow and trying to protect his arm," Chantres said. "As the season goes on we will let him throw a little more. But right now we are taking it slow."

"Mt first couple outings will be one inning at a time, and then we will take it from there. We are still moving pretty slow," Mullee reiterated.

Everyone agrees that staying healthy and getting increased experience on the mound is the focus of Mullee's improvements moving forward.

"The biggest thing [moving forward] is to stay healthy, where he can go out there every two to three days and give us an inning or two and just stay healthy," Chantres said.

"Get his strength back, get his confidence up," Pope added. "Get a feel for being on the mound again for all his pitches. Really just getting out there and gaining his confidence."

"Moving forward, you know, getting more innings on the mound, getting more experience, and really getting back into the feel of throwing every couple of games," Mullee concluded.

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