The 6-foot-2, 220-pound righthanded pitcher arrived at Ole Miss way back in the late summer of 2004. He finally saw action this spring and had his longest outing Sunday, going 3.2 innings with a hit and three strikeouts against Auburn.
After redshirting his first spring (2005), Cryer had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 20, 2005. It's been a long road for Cryer to get to this point. Now he's eager to produce and help his team win.
"It's just about getting back into a rhythm more than anything else," said Cryer, who came on in relief of starter Craig Rodriguez Sunday, facing 11 batters before giving way to Scott Bittle who finished the game. "I didn't face a batter for 15 to 16 months. My velocity is good, but I'm just working to get back into that rhythm you have to have."
Mike Bianco says he sees things coming together for Cryer.
"He was one of the bright spots in a loss on Sunday," the seventh-year UM head coach said. "He's really been outstanding for us so far, and that's good to see. He doesn't give up hits, and he's everything you want in a guy coming out of the bullpen."
Cryer, a first-team all-state pitcher at Leesville (La.) High School, said being a bullpenner is fine with him. He understands how important the role is.
"When you're called out of the bullpen, you want to keep the score the same," said Cryer, who mentioned his fast-ball velocity is in the 90 mph range right now. "Your goal is to give your team a chance to win by not giving up any runs. You hold them where they are and let the offense come through."
Some Tommy John surgery pitchers are better than before the surgery. Cryer hopes that's the case for him.
"Doctors say sometimes there is even more velocity because the rehab is so intense," said Cryer, whose father, Johnny, played baseball at Northwestern (La.) State. "They say you'll see even more velocity in the 18 to 24 month range after surgery. I'm not there yet, but it won't be long."
Fellow Rebel pitcher Phillip Irwin also went through rehab from Tommy John surgery about the same time frame. Irwin had his in December, 2005.
"It helped us both to go through it at the same time," Cryer said. "Rehab can be monotonous, and we encouraged each other."
Cryer says the pitching staff is only beginning to live up to its potential.
"Our staff as a whole is possibly the best in the SEC," he said. "Our Friday-Saturday 1-2 punch (of Will Kline and Lance Lynn) is possibly the best in the nation. There's so much depth in the bullpen with Cody Satterwhite and Scott Bittle and Jesse Simpson and a lot of others. It's tough to find innings for everybody."
It appears, however, there are more innings in Justin Cryer's future.
Fuller Smith was batting in the middle of the linup early in the season and playing left field. For a while he gave way to others while he struggled at the plate. Now it appears he is making a comeback.
Against Arkansas State Tuesday night, the 6-foot, 205-pound junior came in late and was 1-for-1 with an RBI and played left field. On Sunday at Auburn he was 2-for-4 and played left, while Saturday he was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI as the left-fielder.
He's batting .264 with a home run and two doubles this season. But he's feeling a lot better about things now than he was just a few days ago.
"It felt good to get a shot again," Smith said of his playing time recently. "I worked with Coach Rob (Reinstetle) and things got better. Coach Bianco said I'd get a shot to make something happen."
He did - and he did. Bianco said Smith's recent success is a positive sign for the team.
"We need him if we're going to be the team we hope to be," he said. "Early (in the season) he was in the three or four spot in the lineup. Then we look up and see that he's not even in the lineup (in some games). We needed him, and when we called on him, he came through."
Reinstetle said there was a little bit of tweaking of some things Smith was doing.
"We spread him out a little and had him crouch down just a little more," said the Rebels' first-year hitting coach. "If you saw him two weeks ago, he was standing up more. A lot of it is mental, and one of the biggest things has been his confidence. If you're not confident, you feel it. It's good to see him getting confident again."
"For two to three weeks, I got no results," Smith said. "I need to help this team and I feel good about that again."
Against Arkansas State, Ryan White proved what sticking with it is all about.
The redshirt freshman catcher had only appeared in one game this season, and he knows his playing time is limited.
But he comes to work every day as he has for two years now, and the 5-11, 180-pounder from High Point, N.C. (Ledford High School) was happy after going 1-for-2 against the Indians with an RBI single in the eighth inning, his first hit as a collegian.
"I got in one game earlier in the year," said White, whose batting average is .333 now. "Without a doubt it feels good (to get a hit and an RBI). You put in a lot of hard work, and you get to be around all the guys all the time. You wish you could get out there and make something happen. I was glad to get out there and push a run across. It makes you feel good."
White says getting in the games is obviously the ultimate, but he's fully aware of the talent level and depth on this team. He wants to play more but understands and accepts where things are.
"When I came here, he (Bianco) said my job was to come to practice every day and get better," White said. "I feel like I've done that. I just have to make something happen when I get the chance. I'll do that and let the chips fall where they may."
White says being an Ole Miss Rebel and a part of the baseball experience here is special for him.
"I love the program. I wouldn't trade every day that I come out here for anything."
Cryer pitching well; Smith confident again
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