Achieving milestones, both major and minor, is how Seth Harvey negotiated his road to recovery stemming from two words pitchers fear: Tommy John.
Harvey, a 2006 graduate of River Ridge, is in his fifth year in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and hasn’t pitched a full season since his All-Star year with Single-A Appleton (Wisconsin) in 2012.
Thirteen months following Tommy John surgery, a procedure in which the elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament is reconstructed, the 26-year-old right-hander’s comeback trail is nearing an end. He was reassigned to the Appleton Timber Rattlers on July 20 after rehabilitation in Arizona since June 2013.
Harvey knows the game was close to being taken from him. Motivation replaced devastation with every passing day.
“Breaking it down to chunks helps keep your mind focused,” he said. “You can really see your accomplishments.”
While some pitchers feel an instant pop after injuring their elbow, Harvey’s ailment was gradual. For two days while pitching for Advanced-A Brevard County (Florida) in May 2013, his forearm was sore but not hurting. A third day of soreness led to a precautionary MRI that revealed what Harvey said was a “completely torn” ligament. Several weeks later, he was in Milwaukee for a surgery. He did not pitch after mid-May but still was named to the All-Star team after compiling 10 saves — third in the league at that time.
Rehabilitation in Arizona took 13 months, and was not without a few minor setbacks. Harvey didn’t get full range of motion in his elbow for two months. He didn’t throw a baseball until the fourth month, and was hesitant at first. A sports psychologist helped him work through his issues.
“A lot of trust issues had to be addressed,” said Harvey, who hit .385 with six home runs as a high school senior, leading River Ridge to the then-Pacific-9 League title. “(Throwing) was great, but it also was terrifying at the same time. The first time was amazing.”
He already has had one relief appearance for the Timber Rattlers, a team where he earned his first of two All-Star appearances, and said he’s had no ill effects from a surgery and recovery that already has claimed 28 major leaguers — 45, including minor leaguers — in 2014. He said his fastball has hit 94 mph.
For pitchers who need the surgery, which has become prevalent in recent years in the major and minor leagues, Harvey has this advice: remain positive, stay focused, and attack the challenges.
“It’s all part of the process of getting back on the field,” Harvey said.
BRODIN BACK IN LONG ISLAND with ducks
North Thurston High graduate Joash Brodin re-signed with the independent league Long Island Ducks after signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks in August 2013.
In the Diamondbacks’ organization, he appeared in eight games for Advanced-A Visalia (California). With the Ducks, Brodinis batting .250 over 86 games.
Former Olympia High standout Kramer Champlin, pitching at Advanced-A Dunedin (Florida) of the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, is on the seven-day disabled list. He has appeared in 15 games (one start) and is 3-2 with a 2.47 ERA.