Mesa Notebook: Colvin Talks Rehab, 2008

Tyler Colvin has seen a lot of Arizona over the last few months. The Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in the 2006 draft (13th overall) from Clemson underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow after the 2008 season ended and spent most of the off-season at the club's rehab facilities in Mesa.

So what's a player to do throughout the long ordeal of rehabbing away from home? Colvin found the answer in the form of man's best friend—in this case, a rather large friend.

"She's five months and 50 pounds," Colvin says of Mya, a Great Swiss Mountain pup. "She's going to be a big dog."

If all stays according to plan, Colvin and Mya won't be confined to Mesa for much longer.

Colvin, who underwent off-season Tommy John surgery in late October, reports that his rehab is ahead of schedule and that he could be cleared to return to live games by late April. That would put him right on schedule with the timetable the Cubs had initially hoped for.

"There's a possibility I could stay in Mesa and finish up the throwing program and then get out there," he said. "I think the protocol, April 27 is my first day of being able to play defense, but I could go to [Advanced Class-A] Daytona and DH there. That's been talked about. At this point I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen, but to Daytona for the first month is definitely the way they could go with it."

Five months have passed since the surgery, and Colvin says his elbow feels great.

"I'm back to about 90 feet throwing, so no problems there," said Colvin. "It's just a process with the throwing program. We don't want any setbacks. But all is well with it and it doesn't hurt at all. I'm already hitting and that doesn't hurt at all, either. I'm on the right road to get back."

Colvin made it to Class AA Tennessee in his first full season with the Cubs in 2007, and then batted .256 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles and 11 triples in 137 games a season ago at Tennessee.

He was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League, but made just five starts before removing himself from a game on Oct. 14 and eventually opting for surgery.

At Tennessee, Colvin struggled through parts of the season but found his stroke by August, putting together his best month with a .336 average that included five home runs and 17 extra-base hits.

He said the elbow did not factor into his struggles last season.

"I can make it easy and say that, but I couldn't honestly tell you that my elbow played a factor in the way I performed," Colvin said. "It really didn't bug me when I was hitting at all. I could feel it every now and then, maybe on a check-swing or a pitch down in the dirt that I missed or something. But the only time I really felt it at all was when I really tried to let it go in the outfield."

The Cubs had wanted to teach Colvin to become a more selective hitter after he struck out 101 times and drew just 15 walks between Daytona and Tennessee in 2007. He responded last season by drawing 44 walks in 540 at-bats.

Colvin said that approach will benefit him as he progresses through the system. He also said the approach was not something the Cubs' coaches and front office necessarily forced on him.

"I wanted to work on it, and it was nothing really that was pushed at me where [the Cubs said], ‘You have to take more walks. You have to do this,'" he recalled. "It's becoming a better baseball player and if I want to be successful at a higher level, I'm going to have to learn to look for my pitch to hit."

Colvin said he was his own worst enemy at times last season.

"It's easy to go up there at High-A and get these pitchers that don't have quite the control as pitchers at Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues," Colvin said. "They make a lot of mistakes and you capitalize on that. But in Double-A, they pitched to my weaknesses and I was an easy out."

Although he was limited in the off-season, Colvin still worked on that approach.

"Last year was a real learning experience," he said. "I hadn't really struggled yet and it was good in a way for me to see what I have to really clean up hitting-wise with my approach and everything.

"I thought my discipline got a little bit better there, but at the same time you need to look for the right pitch to hit and I felt like I got myself out a lot. That's what I worked on in the off-season. All I could do is one-handed drills, but I could still do the right drills and look for the right pitches."

Having undergone surgery, Colvin said he doesn't anticipate any future arm problems. He started most of his games in centerfield last season but was used more frequently in left as the season drew to a close.

"Hopefully once this is all said and done, the arm is going to be stronger than ever," said Colvin. "I look to come back when I'm ready to go April 27; my long toss will be there and my arm will be pretty strong. Hopefully the year after that, I'll be fully recovered from it and hopefully stronger. I'm not worried about having a below-average arm. I think it's going to be even better."

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