NASHVILLE - The last year has been a struggle for Nashville Sounds' starting pitcher Sean Nolin. The left-hander dealt with the shock of being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Oakland A's during the off-season and then the frustration of not being healthy enough this spring to compete for a spot on his new team's Opening Day roster.
“It's definitely been a rough year,” he said. “I had surgery in the off-season for the double sports hernia. I don't think it hurts as much as a regular hernia because it was abdominal muscles instead of in the intestine or a tear in the lining of your stomach. But I had to strengthen everything and then lengthening everything out because after surgery, you're not going to move around a lot and everything is going to tighten up and shorten up. So, I've had to do a lot of stretching and strengthening for the whole year.”
Nolin said the normal recovery from a hernia takes six-to-eight weeks.
“But when you're in sports, it takes longer – it was like a three-month thing,” he said.
It was too long in his mind.
“I definitely tried to come back a little quicker [than I should have],” said the southpaw, who spent five seasons in the Jays' organization. “I just got traded to a new team and I didn't want to be that guy just sitting around and no one knowing who I am, so I wanted to get out there and show everyone – the team, the front office – what I got, but I guess I wasn't able to do that.”
The quick comeback, in which he was able to make his normal rotation appearances from May 5 – June 26 – turned into another injury, Nolin said.
“I had a little shoulder soreness and inflammation and it needed rest,” he said. “I guess I was using my arm a little more instead of my legs because my legs weren't there. Naturally, your body just compensates and you're not able to tell until something goes wrong.”
“I'm just trying to get my pitch count up and go four innings, five innings, six innings until it's normal pitch count, and then however the game goes, we'll see how long I stay in for. But I feel good. I feel like I'm at about 100 percent again.” -- Sean Nolin
The inflammation led to another stint on the disabled list. He was out from June 28 until August 15, but Nolin believes now he is finally healthy.
“Everything is coming together and I'm feeling pretty good,” he said. “It's all core – everything starts in the middle – and it spreads to your legs and your upper body. I had to have core surgery on both sides, so it was a little step back, but I'm hoping from here on out if I do everything I have to do in the training room and working out, hopefully I'll be alright. I'm finally feeling like my legs are under me.”
Unfortunately for Nolin, injuries are nothing new. The left-hander missed time in 2013 and 2014 with the Blue Jays because of groin injuries. Nolin threw 98 innings during the regular season last year and added another 22.1 innings during the Arizona Fall League.
Once again this year, Nolin will be looking to make up for lost innings during September. Nolin hasn't logged more than 5.2 innings in any one outing this year. It was after his longest outing of the year that he went on the disabled list with the shoulder inflammation. Since his return on August 15, he has pitched two innings, then three innings, and then four innings. He has 42.2 innings pitched this season. In those innings, Nolin has a 2.95 ERA and a 32:19 K:BB for Triple-A Nashville.
Nolin's next scheduled appearance for the Sounds is Monday night.
“I'm just trying to get my pitch count up and go four innings, five innings, six innings until it's normal pitch count, and then however the game goes, we'll see how long I stay in for,” he said. “But I feel good. I feel like I'm at about 100 percent again.”
If the A's do want to get Nolin some additional innings this September, they could call him up to the big leagues, perhaps in a long relief role. Nolin has two major-league appearances under his belt, both coming with the Blue Jays.
He knows what he needs to do to get back to the big leagues.
“Consistently throwing strikes,” Nolin said. “With the injuries this year, my walks have been a little up. Just getting ahead of the batters. I know I have the stuff – I just have to produce the pitches out there."