Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com…
Stephens Ahead Of Schedule
Building up strength in his shoulder, back and forearm, Stephens believes he is ahead of schedule in his return from Tommy John surgery and could start throwing once again in a couple of months.
"I feel like I'm almost back to normal," said Stephens. "I'm not positive, but I think November 13th is when I can start throwing again. I'm also not positive, but I think it is a similar throwing program to what we normally do in our offseason throwing program. But I do have to go back to see Dr. Andrews for a checkup."
Battling what seemed like tendonitis problems all season long, going on the disabled list a couple of times and missing nearly the entire month of May, the Yankees sent Jason Stephens to Dr. Andrews on July 12th to get a second opinion on his arm.
"I guess I had it all year long," Stephens revealed. "They thought it was tendonitis at first so I rehabbed it for a month. They wanted a second opinion so I went to see Dr. Andrews on the 12th and he told me there was a tear and I immediately had the surgery on July 13th. It was a real quick process. Before I knew it I was on my way back to Charleston to pack up my things."
One of the best pitchers for the Charleston Riverdogs prior to the surgery - going 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in eight games - Stephens had a feeling something was wrong this year.
"It was going well," he said of his season, "but my velocity was way down this year. I didn't hit above 89 MPH at all and I sat at 87-89 MPH all of last year, topping out in the low 90's. This year though, I was around 84 MPH and topping out at 86 MPH."
Some pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery actually come back throwing harder than they had prior to the surgery. While Stephens wouldn't exactly frown on it, he is just looking to get healthy.
"I just want to come back throwing the way I was before the injury," said the 22-year old. "If I can throw harder than I did before, I'll look at that as gravy. But I just went to get back to where I was."
Spending his first three professional seasons in the short-season leagues after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Tallmadge High School in Ohio, Stephens finally broke into the long-season leagues this year and was pitching well before Tommy John surgery ended his season prematurely.
"It's frustrating to have any type of serious injury," said Stephens, "and this is the first time I've ever had one. It's tough to be patient. But now I've got to find ways to improve. I felt I did improve a lot in my mechanics this year and I was doing good with my location. So even though I didn't pitch the whole year it's not like it was a complete loss."
Rehabbing at home for the foreseeable future, Stephens is making the most of his time off by attending classes at the University of Akron. There is no set timetable for his return to the minor league complex in Tampa, but he believes it will be well before Spring Training.
"I'm not sure yet," said Stephens, "but I think I'll be going back down some time after the New Year for a couple of months before Spring Training starts. We haven't worked out the exact dates yet."
With the normal recovery time from Tommy John surgery anywhere from 12-18 months, Stephens believes he is ahead of schedule right now. While being ready out of Spring Training seems like an extreme long-shot, he is already looking to get back as quickly as he can.
"I do feel like I'm improving and I'm aiming for a number faster than twelve months," Stephens concluded. "I'm hoping to put a lot of the things I learned this year to work."
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