Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Keith Comstock (Part 1)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers have had a stable of talented pitchers rehabbing at their spring training complex in recent months, including Martin Perez, Sam Stafford, and Justin Miller. Lone Star Dugout discussed those three players with Rangers rehab pitching coordinator Keith Comstock in part one of this two-part interview.

A couple times each season, Lone Star Dugout gets first-hand updates on the Texas Rangers' ailing pitchers from the organization's rehab pitching coordinator, Keith Comstock.

In part one of this two-part feature, we discuss Martin Perez (left wrist), Sam Stafford (returning from shoulder surgery), and Justin Miller (Tommy John surgery).

Also be sure to check out last season's two-part interview with Comstock, where he discussed the club's mental and physical rehab plans for pitchers:

Part 1 (June 30, 2012)
Part 2 (July 3, 2012)

For the most recent reports on all three players discussed, check out the following links: Martin Perez – Sam Stafford – Justin Miller.

Jason Cole: I want to start off by talking about Martin Perez and his injury, which happened earlier this spring. Where is he at in his rehab process right now?

Keith Comstock: He just started throwing today for the first time. The good thing about Martin––it's not a shoulder and it's not an elbow. So we're progressing on how he feels––the comfort and discomfort that he goes about.

Sure, we're going to really keep an eye on him and not let him go too hard too fast. But that's the good thing. I don't have to worry about where his arm slot is going to be. I don't have to worry about him protecting anything because there's really nothing to protect.

Cole: It was his pitching wrist, correct?

Comstock: Yes, his pitching wrist.

Cole: What's the harm in the mechanics when you hurt something like that?

Comstock: There should be none––other than him getting ready to turn it loose. He might get into a comfort zone for a little while, so we'll have to get him out of that. But there is nothing like a Tommy John or a shoulder thing. We're always saying, ‘We've got to watch for this, we've got to watch a shoulder.' With a shoulder, sometimes guys will go to the last slot they remember throwing at with no pain. An elbow guy will want to protect and bring it back into his body.

A wrist guy––I'm making sure that he's moving his wrist with the ball. That's the only thing that he might be tentative to do––to get that nice little finishing touch on his baseball. But that would probably be something I'd have to look at. That's the only thing, really. His legs are in great shape. Martin is in really a good mental place right now. I think he's just biting at the bit to get back in there, because he's in a good place.

Cole: Sam Stafford was a guy who finished his shoulder rehab with you guys after being drafted last year. He's had an impressive spring, including an inning in the major league game a couple days ago. What are your thoughts on how he finished rehab and how he came out of it?

Comstock: That's a good question because with Sammy, when he first came into our rehab, he didn't have any feeling in his fingers––in his pitching fingers. So we really had to work on backspinning a baseball. We had to work on really starting right from scratch. Even though his rehab had gotten him strong––physically strong––he still couldn't work on getting that feeling back. So we did some things in the training room, and then we had some net throwing that I like to do when guys like to feel something. They don't have to worry about playing catch with a partner.

And then once he started getting his feeling back, then he started taking off a little bit. And his body was in such great shape. Then he decided to get in his delivery. We gave him a real quiet delivery because of his––if you noticed yesterday, his ball has got really late explosion at the end. It's about 92 mph, but it just hits this extra gear when it hits the dirt in front of the plate. It's really a sneaky 92-93.

I think that is what I probably like to see the most. He's putting so much backspin on the ball that it has that extra jump. And there's more in there too, I believe. I believe he's going to get more velo, and he's going to get more comfort. He hasn't pitched in a year and a half. So he's still behind the eight ball a little bit as far as that's concerned. But once he starts getting his innings in, I think he'll be fun to watch.

Cole: Shoulder injuries can still be a scary and iffy thing for pitchers. With Stafford having the surgery last February and returning with clean mechanics and full velocity this spring, is he kind of an ideal case for how a pitcher can return from shoulder surgery?

Comstock: He really is. He got that extra time. Probably what helped him most of all was that he had that clavicle issue. So he had to have extra rest on that, which is something that––sticking in the back of my mind––is the extra rest he got on that on top of the shoulder. And then the throwing program––he took our throwing program and our rotator cuff program and just ran with it.

The only one I saw that was like that, and he didn't do surgery, was Joe Saunders. I had Joe with the Angels. He had the same thing––labrum, capsule, and all that stuff. And he didn't have surgery on it. It took him awhile to get back into it. But when he did, that's the best I've seen a shoulder recover––those two guys.

Cole: Justin Miller had Tommy John surgery just after spring training concluded last year. What's the current ETA for getting him back into game action? He's relatively close, isn't he?

Comstock: Yeah. You've seen him throw. It looks really good. He'll probably be getting in May––that first week of May or so. Then we'll start looking to get him out into the system. He has come along so good. His rehab was through the roof. He looks like a beast with his body now.

That's one of the things that we tell these guys. When you rehab, you can't just do the work to do the work to get it over with. You've got to do the work to want to change. And man, he has really changed––he and Matt West have just taken to that weight program. He's going to be an animal. I'm looking forward to Miller getting back in there and possibly doing what Wilmer Font did last year. I really believe he can do that.

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