With the permission of Les and his dad, Jim Dykes, Les talked with me about his surgery and how his rehab is going.
[Since this interview, I have received an update from his dad. Les is throwing his fastball in the low to mid-80's, an increase of 5 miles per hour since the first of June. His control is good and his changeup may be the best that he's ever had.-Gene]
Did you know much about the Tommy John surgery prior to going through it?
"We did some research when we found out that I was going to have to go through it. The surgery and rehab have changed a lot since Tommy John had it. He was in a full plaster cast for four months. Then, they made him stick his arm out straight the first day he got the cast off. He said it was the worst pain that he had ever felt. They let me gradually (extend my arm) myself. I didn't feel any pain."
Talk about when you had your surgery and what you had to go through after you had it.
"I had it November 15th (2002). Dr. (Rusty) Linton did it in Columbus (Mississippi). For a week, I had to wear a cast from my hand to my shoulder. After that week, I got the plaster cast off and they put a brace on that limited the movement in my arm where I couldn't turn my hand left or right or straighten it. They would extend the pegs a little each week so that I could open my arm up a little more. While I was going through that, I was doing band exercises to build up the muscles in my forearms.
"After five weeks, I got the brace off and I did band work and dumbbells with 3 pounds. I started throwing at the end of February. I started my long toss program by throwing 45 feet. I did a certain number of sets and throws. Then I backed up from 45 feet to 60, to 90, to 120, to 150, then to 180. Once I got up to 180, I had to throw three sets of 25 throws at 180 feet without any sharp pain. I got through with that the last week in April. I then started doing my bullpen, which consisted of fastballs and changeups. The first bullpen was 15 throws at 50%. I then had to build up gradually from there. My last bullpen was 90 throws at 75%. I start throwing curveballs next week (late July). Everytime I go out on the mound I throw a little harder. And there is less pain.
"Throwing curveballs is the next big step. The curveball makes the tendon in your elbow a lot more vulnerable. I think the hardest part will be overcoming the fear of letting the ball go. I've been throwing a few curveballs after I get warmed up just to get in the mold of throwing them again."
Has going through this rehab helped you in other ways other than repairing the arm problem that you had?
"I think overall it has been a good experience because I had a little control problems my freshman year. I think the surgery has made me start back over and get my mechanics straight again. I've noticed a difference in my fastball. I have a little tail back in it like I used to have."
What kind of top velocity do you have with your fastball, now?
"I'm probably at 85 to 86 for 9 or 10 pitches, then I go up and down from 80 to 86. It's getting there. Normally, you aren't full speed until about a year (after your surgery), which will be in December. By that time, I will have gone through the fall practices. It will kind of be like learning how to pitch again. It will be a lot of fun."
Will you be able to go through a regular fall or will you be restricted?
"They might have me on a stricter pitch limit in case an inning goes long."
I know you feel good about your rehab. What has Dr. Linton said about your improvement?
"He was very happy. He said the ligament felt great. Everytime he checked it, I never had a problem extending my arm. I haven't had too many problems. I had one little stint of soreness with my shoulder, which is normal when you haven't thrown much."
It sounds like you on track to 100% recovery.
"It's coming back strong. Everytime I throw, I throw a little bit harder. My strength has also increased."
You mentioned that you have gained strength. It looks like you have filled out your frame. How much do you weigh now?
"I weigh 235. I want to get down in the 225 to 230 range. I would rather be 225."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.