Cox Making The Most Of His Return

J. Brent Cox made his season debut on Saturday

TAMPA, FL - After having great success in Double-A Trenton in 2006, J. Brent Cox became another of several Yankees' prospects that have received Tommy John Surgery in the past couple of years. After a long rehabilitation process, Cox made his official return to the mound on Saturday and he says he is excited to get back on the field and return to form.

When any pitcher receives Tommy John surgery, the rehabilitation is usually a long and arduous process. Returning in time for Spring Training is essential for shaking off any rust and refining your game for the beginning of the season.

"It's been a different Spring Training for me as opposed to other years because obviously I'm trying to get healthy coming off surgery and I felt good," J. Brent Cox admitted. "I felt I made some really big steps according to my surgery and I felt pretty good about it."

For the most part, Spring Training was satisfactory by Cox's standards. He was able to make progress in several areas, however, he hinted that there is room for improvement.

"I was pretty happy with it but obviously there is still a lot of things I need to work on," he said. "That's just part of the process right now and I'm going to keep getting better every time out there and keep working on stuff. That's all I really care about right now."

People who know J. Brent Cox are aware of his plus slider, and getting it back to form is one of his main priorities. His long absence from the field has caused some minor mechanical issues but Spring Training slowly allowed him to regain some of his technique.

"Right now, I'm still getting that feeling back and getting healthy enough to give it my full effort and not ‘babying' it or guiding it to the plate."

After any pitcher undergoes a major operation such as Tommy John surgery regaining velocity is always going to be a huge concern. Although Cox admits he is not blowing anybody away with his fastball, regaining his arm strength was extremely important.

"My last couple of outings, my velocity has been back to normal," he revealed. "Physically-wise I'm probably close to 100 percent right now. I have to work through it mentally. I have to give myself that chance and say that I'm healthy, and go out there and give it my all instead of having [doubts] in the back of my mind."

Aside from regaining his arm strength and technique on his slider and fastball, there are other aspects of his game that need to be addressed. Developing his tertiary pitch has also been one of his key focuses, as this will allow him to continue the dominance he had in Trenton before he was injured.

"I've got to start developing my offspeed pitches a little bit more and getting them back to where they used to be and I think once I do that I'll be in a little bit better shape," he added.

"The changeup has been going pretty well. I've been throwing it pretty well in the bullpen. It's one of those deals where I have the pitch but it's just going to take time for me to throw it more and getting used to it, and using it in game situations until I'm 100 percent comfortable with it."

His return to the mound did not go as well as expected after yielding one earned run on two hits in an inning pitched on Saturday. Being the type of competitor that he is, Cox was disappointed with his performance and even admitted that few of his pitches were a bit off. Despite the sub-par results, he was definitely excited to be out there after such a prolonged absence.

"It was great," he said with a smile. "[Saturday], just coming to the field, sitting in the bullpen, and joking around with all of the guys was a great feeling. It was the probably most fun I've had playing baseball and/or coming to the field in a long time. It beats coming to the training room everyday and sitting in the hot tub."

After the game, the arm did not show any lingering effects from surgery.

"It felt great!" according to the right-hander. "[Sunday] I played some long toss and it felt great, I'll have an off day [on Monday]. Right now, I'm on a schedule where I'll pitch an inning and then have a day off. It's been great and today [Sunday] I bounced back pretty well."

After experiencing just how difficult the rehabilitation process can be, Cox has learned the value of getting healthy and staying healthy. Besides worrying about the rehab, he has also acknowledged that prevention is one of the major steps in maintaining good health.

"For one thing, I've done more shoulder exercises than I think I've done in my whole career playing baseball. I'm probably good on those for the rest of my career because I've done so many.

"Besides that it's just a bunch of knick-knack things you do such as heating up and cooling down in the hot tub, I do a lot more stretching obviously because you're thinking about it more.

"Even when you're at home, you're thinking about - I do a couple stretches at home and I'm always thinking about getting healthy. Just in that sense you're going to end up doing a lot more things."

Besides fully recovering from surgery, Cox has a positive outlook on the upcoming season and even though his season debut did not go as well as planned, he still has some clearly defined goals.

"One goal is to get healthy and continue to stay healthy obviously, but after that it's working on those pitches and getting batters out and continue to move up, get back on track and get back to where I left off in '06.

"I went through Spring Training and that was good, it's got me here and got me healthy. Right now I just got to take it a day at a time and continue to get better with every outing I have here, and make the most of it."

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