O'Brien Feeling Stronger After Injury

O'Brien has been showing a harder fastball

Mikey O'Brien is back to the mound after getting rocked by a line drive in March that left him with a broken finger and on the disabled list for several weeks. And while the numbers have just been okay this season, his stuff has gotten better.

"Today my curveball was 72-74 MPH," O'Brien said recently, "which is a lot harder and better than last year. Last year it was around 69 MPH, so it's doing great."

While in rehab, O'Brien worked hard on keeping his arm and shoulder strong by lifting weights, making sure not to extend above his head to avoid further injury. He also continued to run and workout his legs to stay in shape in order to come back strong when his hand healed.

"Basically I did anything I could do that didn't require my hand," O'Brien said. "I was doing a lot of shoulder exercises because I couldn't grip anything with my fingers."

O'Brien, who has hit 95 MPH this season, feels that he is pitching even better now than before his injury and with hard work on bettering his curveball and just racking up innings pitched, he will be closer to where he needs to be to move up. However, this was not the case directly after his return to the mound.

"I think at first I was in kind of a slump right when I came back," O'Brien admitted, "but now I think I am a lot stronger because when I was hurt I was able to just focus on getting better and strengthening my muscles."

O'Brien was drafted out of high school and has been with the Gulf Coast League Yankees for two years now. Pitching Coach Carlos Chantres believes that his injury could possibly leave O'Brien, unlike his good friend Matt Richardson, in a position to remain in the GCL this season, but says it is too early to tell.

"As the year goes on he's going to get better and his pitches are already getting better," Chantres says. "They look a lot smoother, but he's still a long way away. He may need to stay here longer because of the injury, but who knows what will happen."

Chantres certainly agrees with O'Brien that he has returned a stronger pitcher and is currently throwing better than before his injury.

O'Brien will continue to focus on improving his pitching throughout the remainder of the season; the former high school shortstop is no longer hitting for the Yankees and is only playing defense, which will give him a chance to really work on his arm.

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