On The Mound Again

Jake Morgan wore No. 4 in the bullpen Monday instead of his usual No. 44. No particular reason, it seems. Not trying to disguise himself.

He was too happy to be throwing a bullpen for the first time in several weeks to hide. And it went well, too, said No. 4 on this day but No. 44 this weekend.

If his next bullpen on Wednesday goes well, Morgan will likely be available for the Rebels when they play at Florida.

"Yeah. I expect to," he said of pitching at some point this weekend against the powerful Gators. "Hopefully the pen (on Wednesday) will go progressively better than today, and I'll be back out there."

Certainly it's back where he wants to be and what he's worked toward since a major setback two years ago.

Morgan, who had Tommy John surgery in October, 2009, and rehabbed for the better part of a year, felt some pain in his shoulder against Alabama on a Sunday afternoon in late March. He took a day off and it was discovered there was no structural damage. Then he started throwing again that first week before being shut down totally for more than two weeks when it wasn't improving as it should.

His first time to throw again was Friday at Auburn, and he long-tossed before the game. On Saturday he threw even longer.

Monday, however, was different. He was on the mound again. He was pitching to, well, to see if he could pitch effectively and pain free.

Check on both counts.

"I was a little nervous," Morgan said. "Anytime you get on the mound throwing 100 percent effort to locations is a lot different than long-tossing. Long-tossing you can really control different aspects of it. But when you're on the mound going, it's just what you've done all your life. And you've got to rely on your mechanics."

Since that day against Alabama, Morgan has made obvious improvement.

"It was a really sharp pain, but now it's more like a really tight muscle, and it just kind of pulls a little bit. It may just be from not throwing. That's basically how it feels," he said. "That may just be from not throwing as long as I did."


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Morgan said the bullpen felt solid.

"Everything in the pen looked good. I threw all three pitches, and all three felt good."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it was good to see Morgan have success in the bullpen session.

"He felt good and threw about as well as could be expected for not being on the mound for five or six weeks. He did well today," Bianco said. "If he continues like this, he'll be ready to pitch in some capacity on the weekend."

Bianco, whose team is tied for first place in the SEC West along with Arkansas and Auburn, said one only has to look at the numbers to know how much they've missed Morgan.

"You're talking about a guy who had pitched 18 innings and hadn't given up an earned run," Bianco said. "Wow. That's tough to replace, tough to make up for."

Bianco said Morgan might not be in the closer role as soon as he comes back.

"I don't know if we'd put him at the end (of a game)," he said. "Certainly for an inning or two, but I don't know if that's fair to him to bring him in at the end of a game against an SEC team. But he's the type of kid that I don't think he'll be far from doing that."

Morgan said he isn't sure how his endurance is doing to be. But based on the Monday bullpen session, it may be longer than most might think.

"I don't know. I really don't. I felt like I could throw more. I threw more pitches (in the bullpen) than I normally would in an inning. It may have even been two innings, but I felt like I could have gone more. During the two weeks off, I maintained my shoulder strength with a therapy process."

Morgan said he remained confident through it all as best he could.

"All the guys have been behind me the whole time. I knew what it was. Wait two weeks and go from there. All the doctors, trainers, coaches all seemed confident. So I really didn't have a problem with that."

But that moment against Alabama and since has made for some rough times, especially mentally.

"The first day obviously was not a very good day for me. After the diagnosis and they told me what it was and how long it would take (to heal), I felt good knowing I'd be able to be back out here sometime soon. Then as I was throwing, I still felt it. My confidence got a little wavery. Got to feeling better and got up to a good percentage. Then they said we're going to take some time off.

"I didn't think (the time off) was a step back. I thought it was maybe the thing I needed just to get over that little hump."

Certainly that appears to have been just the case for No. 44.


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