Long Road Back

Casey Mulholland pitched for the first time in a while on Saturday. It's been a long road back since Tommy John surgery on March 31, 2010.

"I did well," he said after pitching in a game for the first time in several weeks with an IMG summer program team. "I threw 12 pitches and had three strikeouts. I felt great. My arm‘s been coming back the last couple of weeks. Everything's coming back and getting into shape. The ball was coming out of my hand well. I just threw fastballs and changeups and struck out three. So..."

So...the Ole Miss signee is ready to pitch some more. Unlike some of the newcomers for this year's Rebel team who are already in Oxford, the talented right-hander will pitch for a team in DeLand, Fla., starting this weekend. The DeLand Suns are a college-level team in the Florida Collegiate League. It's sponsored by MLB and in corporation with leagues like Cape Cod and the Northwoods League and other summer collegiate leagues. After that, Mulholland will head to Oxford in mid-August to begin his career with the Rebels.

He said Saturday everything felt normal.

"It was all good," he said the following day. "Everybody had told me the little things that were to be expected, the little tweaks here and there when you start pitching again. It looks like I'm through that and past that stage. So that's a major plus and I can start really working and get back into game-ready shape and get prepared for next spring."

Mulholland will pitch for DeLand and also play some outfield. He explains how things have gone up until now.

"I haven't really been doing any (pitching) consistently, because I've been on a strict long-toss program, to build arm strength. That's built some strength in the elbow. I decided to throw a longer program (during the months of rehab) and extend myself back. (Before Saturday) I was throwing 270 feet, which allows me to really open up my shoulder and my elbow, and to put it at a different angle than it would coming off the mound. It builds strength over time and what that's doing is basically giving me time to step on the mound and feel comfortable throwing a higher velocity again. It's a major difference between the downhill angle and the long toss."

Casey Mulholland
Mulholland had a little "twinge" his first outing back, which was actually a month and a half ago.

"I felt like I might have jumped back in and threw it a little bit too hard too quick. So I pulled the reins back a little bit. I've always said if it's 12 months or 15 months or 17 months, I have time and I'm going to take that time to make sure. And that's what I'm still doing. I'm on the verge of being back fulltime, but it's still a process and I'm taking it slow."

Slow has been a key word since his surgery nearly 15 months ago. But he knew he would have to endure it and have much patience.

"I've just tried to take it all as it comes and as a part of the process," he said. "I've stayed positive about the whole thing all the way through. I've worked my butt off for 15 months to get back out there. It wears on you after a while. My arm's healthy now. It's just getting used to what the elbow feels like on a day in and day out basis. And that's what's still unclear to me. Nothing could have gone any better."

A sure high draft choice last June had he not had surgery last March, Mulholland wasn't drafted this year either. That's also a part of all this he's had to deal with in his own way. He attended IMG Academies, and players who attend those are headed to the highest level of their chosen sport.

For Mulholland, Ole Miss was always his top priority. But being drafted would have played a part in it last year and potentially could have again this year.

"I've always wanted to go to Ole Miss (since he committed in 2009), and I've wanted to pitch in Oxford," said Mulholland, who chose Ole Miss over Clemson, North Carolina, LSU, Florida, Miami, and Central Florida. "I'm excited about next spring, because I know I'll have the opportunity. I've loved Ole Miss since day one. It's the only focus I've had this year. I didn't think about pro ball this year.

"What matters now is that I'm on my way to Oxford and I'll get to play for Ole Miss and do what I love to do. Hopefully we can take it to Omaha, because sitting on the couch right now watching it is driving me crazy. My new goal and my new outlook is to make that happen."

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