|Tommy Hottovy offers a glimpse to what might await Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rich Hill||06.03.11 at 12:23 pm ET|
PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Looking for a glimpse as to what might await Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill? Let us turn to Tommy Hottovy.
With many wondering what the future might hold for Matsuzaka and Hill – two Red Sox pitchers who are at least considering Tommy John surgery after injuring their pitching elbows – Hottovy offers a good example as to what both hurlers might expect if the procedure is executed.
The 29-year-old lefty, who is currently pitching out of the Pawtucket Red Sox bullpen, underwent Tommy John surgery on June 19, 2008, having injured his UCL while pitching for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
It would then be a year to the day when he would pitch in a real game again, throwing for the Single-A Lowell Spinners on June 19, 2009.
But before it is surmised that Matsuzaka and Hill would be potentially back contributing to the Red Sox by this time next season, Hottovy offers a reality check.
“To be honest, I felt pretty good right away. After taking the year off it’s not so much how you feel physically, it’s how you can handle the workload after taking the time off,” said the former Sox fourth-round pick in 2004. “So immediately I felt really good, but then after throwing more and more my shoulder would get stiff and velocity went down. It just tests your endurance.
“To me it wasn’t until last year’s spring training that If felt 100 percent.”
Hottovy didn’t start throwing to hitters until just after the team broke spring training in Fort Myers in ’09. It was then the optimism buoyed by his overall help was tempered due to pitching inactivity.
The uneasiness led to the lefty changing his arm angle, which, while awkward at first (his fastball is four mph faster now than when he made the switch), it has paid off. In 18 2/3 innings with the PawSox this season, Hottovy has allowed just four runs while striking out 18 and walking four. Left-handers have yet to get a hit against him in Triple-A, and he has now positioned himself to be on the short list as a potential call-up in place of Hill.
“For me, the velocity came back right away, but the comfort level wasn’t there,” said Hottovy, who was operated on by Dr. James Andrews. “That’s why I ended up dropping down. The biggest thing is getting that feel back. When you don’t throw off a mound for a good seven months you lose mechanics, you lose that feel you had. You almost have to re-teach yourself how to pitch.”
Another benefit of the surgery, according to the former Wichita State hurler, is a new-and-improved body. Besides the healthy elbow, it is the strength that can be gained through the rehab which offers the most encouragement.
“For an elbow injury you can rehab your shoulder the whole time. I was three days after surgery doing shoulder exercises,” he said. “From Day 1, even though you can’t do anything with your elbow, you’re doing shoulder work and getting stronger. For me, also, I was a guy who was 190 pounds, maximum. I didn’t have the time to put on a lot of muscle or gain a lot of strength. What surgery allowed me to do was kill my lower body. So I went from being 190 pounds to now I’m consistently 204 every day. For me I could never have imagined being over 200 pounds, but with the surgery you have so much time.”
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