Cesar Carrillo hails good health

Peoria, AZ-- Everything depends on health. San Diego Padres top pitching prospect Cesar Carrillo is feeling fine. He was a tad behind the rest in spring training but was pitching in live games and throwing his full compliment of pitches by mid-March.

Whether this lasts will depend. Most people who had his type of injury ended up under the knife. Cesar Carrillo was prescribed rest.

The injury was a buildup through the year, especially towards the tail end of his tour in Double-A Mobile. Facing off against West Tenn in mid-May, his ninth start of the year, Carrillo thought something was a little off.

After two weeks of rest, Carrillo was back on the mound in Triple-A Portland. He lasted 2.2 innings.

"I was feeling something and my arm was just getting tired. I was saying, ‘man, it just doesn't feel right.'"

"I didn't want to chance anything and hurt my shoulder if I am worried about my elbow. I got shutdown and went for an MRI and they said the flexor tendon was a little bit stressed out. The fear was there is no way for it to get healed unless you had surgery, but there are cases where it does heal by itself. Hopefully, this is one of those cases."

The Padres fear was a lost year-plus of development for their top prospect and upon doctor's recommendations felt comfortable with Carrillo sitting out and nursing it back to health with exercise and re-strengthening the tendon.

Lingering in the back of his mind through the process was the lost chance at ending up in San Diego at the end of the season. It was only natural that he wonder – he was a sure September call-up and could have been the fifth starter to open the 2007 season if his health hadn't got in the way.

For his part, the right-hander takes it in stride and looks to the future.

"I thought about it, but I think everything happens for a reason," Carrillo said. "Maybe it wasn't my time to be up there. Hopefully, this year I get an opportunity to prove myself again. I don't think about it anymore. It is a whole new year and hopefully I get a chance to come up this year to help the team win."

Carrillo was held to long toss sessions for much of the off-season, building up the muscles around the joints. He worked out in Tampa Bay with friends for nearly two months before arriving in Peoria, Arizona on February 1st to get in the early work.

In spring training, he was allowed to work off a mound and progressed to a point where he was throwing to live hitters three weeks in.

The arm? It feels good.

"It has been great ever since last time I pitched and got shutdown," he said. "I came out February 1st and have been throwing ever since. I threw for the first time to live hitters and it felt great. I was out there eight minutes and it was back to normal."

He then got an inning of work and flashed a fastball that hit 91 MPH.

"I threw everything, my fastball, curveball, changeup, two-seamer," he proudly beamed.

There have been some who wondered whether Carrillo would have to change his mechanics to remain healthy but he has kept pretty much the same delivery.

One thing that has changed, however, is his pace. And that has made him a cleaner pitcher without monumental alterations to his delivery.

"When I am out there I don't try and rush myself," he explained. "I just try – every time I was out there I was rushing myself and now I am more calm and I think about what I throw. I take one pitch at a time more often. It just feels great to be out there.

"I don't think I changed. The only thing I changed was not rushing so fast. I think that was my main thing. When I start rushing, my arm starts to lag or starts to drag and my body is a little bit forward so I think that is what broke down my elbow. Last year, I was in too much of a rush. This year, I am more fluid and staying back so I can push off my back leg and so far it has been great. I am not complaining."

The promising news continues – at least for him. Carrillo says his changeup is acting as he expected and should be a pitch he calls upon often this year. Hitters beware.

"Obviously, after coming off this injury and it is a feel pitch, just like a curveball – but I have been throwing the changeup and it has been great," Carrillo said. "I am actually surprised with how great it has been. Maybe this is what I needed? It has been feeling great. It is coming out of my arm – and again I think it is from not rushing – a lot easier. It is more fluid and looking a lot more like my fastball. Hopefully it stays that way."

And hopefully his health lasts. If it does, Carrillo will be in San Diego before the year is out and could be a fixture in the Padres rotation for a long time to come – health pending.

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