Cryer confident and healthy for Hi-Toms

Having a healthy right arm had been an unattainable commodity for Justin Cryer since Tommy John surgery in 2005, but the Rebel hurler has finally reached 100 percent and has a microscopic ERA as evidence.

Cryer has spent his summer being a bullpen force for Thomasville Hi-Toms of the Coastal Plain League and sports a 0.92 ERA at the All-Star Break. Opponents are hitting a paltry .111 through 19.2 innings of work.

"My velocity is up from where it was in the spring, and I am right at my 50th inning since surgery," Cryer said. "The doctors told me it takes a while to get back, but my arm is really in a rhythm and feels good. I'm able to bounce back and throw 100 percent on consecutive days.

"Ninety-three and 94 are what they have had me at this summer. I touched those numbers in the spring, but now my confidence is so much higher. When confidence is up, you throw harder and are a lot more effective. Everything is improved."

Velocity isn't the only thing improved as Cryer is controlling his assortment of pitches and not allowing free passes. The rising red-shirt sophomore has struck out 26 hitters while only walking three. Cryer has surrendered seven hits, but they have all been singles. He is excited about the success but also recognizes a difference when throwing against a wood bat.

"I am locating everything," Cryer said. "I have spent the summer trying to locate all three pitches for strikes and have been doing so lately. It is mostly controlling the fastball though. I can spot it inside and outside with a higher velocity.

"The wood bat makes a tremendous difference. I throw a lot more fastballs here than at school just because you can beat a lot of wood bats. Guys are timid to swing at inside pitches. Throwing 90 or above against a wood bat will result in a lot of good things happening to you."

Cryer has also inherited a new family so to speak this summer as every player is placed with a host in the area. The families open up their homes and provide shelter to the athletes. However, the NCAA still governs what can be provided.

"I am staying with a host family that has two boys and basically opens up their house and caters to our needs," Cryer said. "It is more just the housing because they can't buy us anything due to NCAA rules. We buy our own groceries and stuff. They offer, but with all the rules, we never know what to say. They let us live there, come to our games and really support us constantly. It is an awesome setup here."

Cryer is happy with the setup also because three of his Ole Miss teammates are also Hi-Toms.

"Having teammates with me is amazing. I love being with Kevin Parker, Wade Broyles and Zach Miller. And especially Wade and Parker because we are all pitchers. Wade and I have been the one-two punch out of the bullpen this summer."

Injury woes have prevented Cryer from being competitive during the Rebels' fall workouts in recent years, so the right-hander is ready for the opportunity when school comes back into session.

The summer has been a learning experience where Cryer can use his CPL background while playing in oxford.

"Confidence is the main thing, but I am also trying to get completely healthy," Cryer noted. "Go in to the fall with no health issues and ready to go so that I can be a big part of the team next season. And pitching, just getting more innings against competitive competition. I will be ready to throw back-to-back days or even start a game every now and then.

"It is my first fall where I'm going to be healthy so I am definitely ready to get after it. We need to get a feel for (Carl) Lafferty and also teach some of the younger guys. (Brett) Bukvich and I are the two that have been in the system the longest. The fall is all about getting comfortable and improving for a successful spring."

A new teacher awaits Cryer with Lafferty recently named the new pitching coach. The pitcher has talked with the promoted coach and says that both are excited for next season.

"I'm happy for Coach Lafferty. He played for Coach Bianco and will be a great addition to the pitching unit. Coach (Kyle) Bunn did a great job, but Lafferty is very eager to get in and get started. There are a lot of catchers who end up great pitching coaches. Lafferty played for Bianco and has a feel for what to do in every situation. Being a catcher, he has to concentrate on the mental side maybe more than a pitcher does."

Cryer concludes his season with Thomasville on August 12 and expects to be back in Oxford two or three days later.

And for the first time, he will have a healthy right arm on arrival.

OM Spirit Top Stories