Spring Camp Q&A: Chris Shaver

Left-hander Chris Shaver is excited about the 2007 season and it's not just the spring fever talking. Mostly, it is the realization that for quite possibly the first time since the 6-foot-7 southpaw was drafted almost three years ago, he will be pitching with a clean bill of health.

Shaver, a fourth-round Cubs draft pick from William & Mary College in 2004, was a Southern League All-Star for Double-A West Tennessee a year ago. He won seven games and finished the year with a 2.99 ERA in 26 starts.

As the season wore on, though, Shaver became increasingly bothered by a bone spur in his left elbow, which it turns out was present essentially from the very moment he was drafted.

The 25-year-old Cubs pitching prospect opted for surgery last September and spent several weeks this past offseason in Mesa, Ariz., at the club's rehab facilities undergoing treatment. He expects to begin the minor league season on time and on schedule a month from now.

How did the surgery go?

I think the surgery went really well. Dr. [Stephen] Gryzlo did a great job and checked all my ligaments and said I looked really well. I should break camp with everybody else.

How long had you been pitching with this bone spur?

I think it was right after I got drafted. I had an X-ray and it showed a small one, so it was never a very big deal. But as last season went on, things really started to flare up, especially in the second half and toward the end of the year. I had an X-ray after the season and you could tell it was getting a lot bigger.

How has the rehab process gone?

Once I had the surgery, I spent about eight weeks in Arizona. The first few weeks after the surgery, I worked to get my range of motion back. I think it's a little different than a lot of rehabs because I didn't have any ligament damage. It's still been tough. I want to jump back in it, but I've been taking it easy and a little slower than normal.

Have you tried throwing all of your pitches yet?

I haven't thrown that many sliders. That's something I've held back on just to make sure I'm strong before I start getting after those. I have been able to get more extension on my fastball and changeup. I have really good movement, so that's something I was definitely excited to see when I started working off the mound again.

How much of your normal game plan and repertoire were you able to execute with the bone spur acting up last year?

Before the second half, the pain had never been a lot more present one time over another. But once my body started getting tired, it was starting to flare up and I was starting to feel the pain more frequently and also a lot earlier in the games; whereas earlier in the year, it might happen only once in the sixth or seventh inning. Toward the end of the year, it would happen sometimes in warm-ups before the game. I tried not to ever think about it when I was pitching, but I'm sure it was in the back of my head that if I really let a pitch go, it was going to get me pretty good.

Can you describe the kind of pain and strain a bone spur puts on the elbow?

It was the kind of thing where if I ever locked my elbow out or extended hard on it, a sharp, pinching pain would go all the way through my elbow. In the beginning, if I stepped off after that pitch and just gave it a second to calm down, the next pitch I was fine and able to keep going. It just kept gradually getting worse as the season went on.

Have you given any thought to what level you might be at this year?

I think I've definitely proven myself at Double-A and can pitch at the next level. I wouldn't be surprised if I went back to Double-A just to make sure my elbow looks good. I'd be happy with either Double-A or Triple-A.

With minor league camp now underway, what type of work are you putting in and will it differ from years past now that you're coming off surgery?

You want to get out and make sure you're in shape, but you also want to make sure you take care of any bumps and bruises so they don't affect you in the season. It's tough for anybody to understand how long the season is and how many innings you throw until you actually do it. This year it's been about making sure that I'm in good shape and that I'm healthy. I don't want to push it too much in Spring Training; I want to prepare myself to go ahead and make every start like I did last year. It's a lot of conditioning, but also a good bit of fundamentals and bunting. You take care of the little things now so that you don't have to worry about them once the season starts.

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