West Tenn Q&A: Jon Connolly

Earlier this week, Inside The Ivy caught up with West Tenn starter Jon Connolly and got an update on his recent injury and return to the mound.

Connolly was placed on the disabled list in mid-April as the result of inflammation in his throwing arm. He returned to action on May 26 in a relief appearance against Mobile.

Inside The Ivy: Jon, we understand you were ahead of schedule on rehab and returned a few days earlier than expected.

Jon Connolly: Originally I wasn't going to pitch until June 1, but I had some live BP's, a simulated game, and a couple of bullpen sessions to build up my pitch count. I threw really well, so they decided to put me in the bullpen for two outings. That was the final step in building up the pitch count.

Inside The Ivy: Overall, tell us how your arm has felt since returning? We know there was some "dead arm" symptoms that you experienced.

Jon Connolly: I haven't had any pain since I received the cortisone shot (in April). Everything has been good. I've been pain-free and am able to finish off my pitches.

Inside The Ivy: Have you felt any kind of a rush or anxiety since returning? This is really the first time where you've ever been injured on the minor league circuit and had to miss a couple of months.

Jon Connolly: Yeah, this was actually the first time I'd ever been on the DL at all. I had only missed one start before this and that was in '03 (in the Detroit Tigers' farm system). They (the Tigers) had me miss a start then because I had thrown so many innings that year (166). But this was the longest I'd ever gone without starting. I didn't put any pressure on myself to go out there and do too much all at once. I've just tried to throw strikes and let whatever is going to happen just happen. I'm not a guy that's going to blow fastballs right by you anyway.

Inside The Ivy: How has it been working with your pitching coach, Alan Dunn?

Jon Connolly: It's been good. "A.D." is a good guy who knows what he's doing. He just wants you to work hard. I knew that in order for me to stay here, I had to work it out with Chuck Baughman, our trainer, so that I would come to the field early each day. I spent a lot of time doing shoulder exercises and strengthening routines. Both Alan and Chuck have helped me a lot, because they allowed me to stay here instead of going to Mesa. Now I'm feeling pretty good, am pain-free, and am able to pitch again.

Inside The Ivy: Was going to "extended" something you were really set on avoiding if possible?

Jon Connolly: I talked to (Player Development Director) Oneri Fleita, and I didn't want to go to Mesa. They were going to send me there before Chuck asked if I would agree to come to rehab early every day without any (quarrels). My wife had just gotten here at the time, so it worked out.

Inside The Ivy: Is there anything that worried you when you first stepped back onto the mound last week?

Jon Connolly: Actually, the only thing I was nervous about was pitching out of the bullpen. I had never done any relieving before. Being a starter, you have as long as you want to get loose. I had known the first time out that I'd be in a situation where I was starting a fresh inning. Even then, I wasn't sure how I would react. Once I was back out there, it made me really appreciate playing the game. You don't know how much you miss it until you step foot back out there.

Connolly started West Tenn's 6-3 loss to Tennessee on Thursday night. He threw an inning and two-thirds and allowed four runs on seven hits.

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