By Tom Keppeler, Shoulder1 Staff
Take it slow, Bret Saberhagen kept telling himself. Don't make it hurt like last time. Or the time before that.
After two surgeries to repair massive tears in his rotator cuff, and at 36 years old, Saberhagen could not afford to re-injure the right shoulder that kept him out of major league play for all of last season. In his first game back to the mound since his second shoulder reconstruction, Saberhagen pitched 21 times and kept his throwing hinge in one piece.
Saberhagen pushed himself too hard after his last shoulder surgery. A two-time Cy Young Award winner, he tried to do too much too soon, and wound up pitching 70-mile per hour fastballs in the minor leagues last season. He told the Associated Press he rebuilt his arm strength and slowed down his recovery, aiming to be back in the Sox pitching rotation soon.
In a Spring Training season fraught with disappointment for Red Sox fans—including a wrist injury to short stop Nomar Garciaparra and a shoulder injury to newly acquired pitcher David Cone—Saberhagen let loose for 13 strikes, hitting 91 on the speedometer, proving that his slow, steady rehabilitation may pay off this time. That is not to say, however, that Saberhagen did not get the jitters Saturday. "Every pitch, I was trying to take a deep breath and calm myself down," he told the AP.
Despite two hits—which turned up no runs for the Minnesota Twins—Saberhagen was pleased with his performance. To continue along his slow road to recovery, he says, he will pitch about three innings in his start in five days, stopping once he has reached 85 pitches or so. Recovery—not placement on the roster, he says—is his priority now. "Just as long as I get back into the rotation, it doesn't matter where you put me," he told the AP.
The rotator cuff is a thick band of four muscles and their respective ligaments that runs from the upper arm bone, or humerus, to the shoulder socket, or glenoid. Repeated stress, such as from frequent pitching, can tear the cuff, rendering it weak or unable to lift the arm.
To read more about rotator cuff injuries, click here.
Photo courtesy of CNN/SI.