Russ Coming Back Strong

After being activated from the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis, James Russ has bounced back pitching for the Carolina Mudcats. He is concentrating more on locating pitches instead of concerning about arm strength.

"Going in every year I have a goal sheet," James Russ revealed. "First and foremost, I try to stay healthy, that's my first goal. I've been on the DL early this year, trying to train my shoulder tendonitis. I'm getting there; it's one of those things of bouncing back."

"It feels good, it's gradually getting better. It's ready, the day after I pitch; I throw really long, with long toss. The big thing for me right now is trying to build the arm strength. I was good enough to break camp to get out of rehab and come up here and pitch. Now it's just getting to that point where I was. I am close, real close,"

Even though he was roughed up on Thurday, he was able to pitch a brilliant performance in a victory against the Birmingham Barons on May 24th. He had a no-hitter running through 4 and 2/3 innings. He gave up one hit and one run in six innings pitched, striking out four batters.

"Just going after batters, most like other nights keep hitters off balance. I used my pitches to my advantage, as opposed to their advantage," he explained his strategy for the game.

"For me, it's my breaking ball. My game plan is spotting the fastball, get ahead of you, and put you away with it. That's the game plan going into the game, and that reverses as the game goes on," said the undrafted free agent of 2003.

He was able to keep hitters off-balance and stay ahead of counts the whole game. He wants hitters to stay honest, and try to throw them off if possible. With his curveball, he was able to retire most Birmingham hitters.

"It was keeping them off-balance," said Russ. "At any given count, I'll show my breaking ball. You're going to have to be honest with me, you're not going to sit there and lean over the plate."

"I went away there first time all the way through. Second time through, I kept them honest and came in on them, so my breaking ball will be more to my advantage. So they couldn't just sit on it and wait on it."

Russ has been working hard to get back to pitching for the Mudcats, and on May 8th he was activated from shoulder tendonitis. He has been concentrating on location more so then velocity of his pitches right now.

"I don't really look at the velocity anymore," he admitted. "When I was younger, I was throwing hard. Now it's just see if I can spot up an 86, 87 MPH fastball, then I'm good. I would like to be back where I've been throwing from 88 to 90 MPH."

"Location for me, that's my main concern. I work really hard on getting to those locations. I never look at the velocity charts because I can pretty much tell you how hard I'm throwing. You always want to throw hard; you can get away with mistakes. 86 to 88 MPH you have to execute the pitch more."

Pitching strong since coming off the disabled list, he hopes to continue his success by concentrating on placement of pitches.

"If I can keep those guys off-balance, then I win, then just staying and getting ahead of batters, so you don't get into fastball counts. That's the thing I try to do."

(Photos exclusively Copyright © 2007 Nikolaus Johnson Controlled Images)

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