Selected in the fourth round of the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Bittle signed with the Cardinals a few weeks later for a reported bonus of $75,000. He had previously been taken by the New York Yankees in the second round in 2008, but did not come to terms reportedly due to concerns over his shoulder.
Bittle returned to Ole Miss, where one of his teammates was Lance Lynn. His cutter was said to be unhittable and his strikeout rate was 16 per nine innings, but he would not pitch professionally in 2009.
Early in 2010 spring camp, it was determined shoulder surgery was necessary. The procedure, to correct instability in the capsule, was done by famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
It is comparable to Washington's Chien-Ming Wang's July 2009 surgery. Wang has not regained his velocity or his spot on the active major league roster and is expected to begin 2011 on the disabled list.
In two spring game appearances pitching in relief for Quad Cities, Bittle had one bad outing and one good. His first time out, three runs scored in 2/3 of an inning, but four days later, he tossed a scoreless frame on one walk and one strikeout.
In the interview that follows, Bittle discusses his long road back and what he hopes to see ahead.
Other interviews in this series:
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