Brigham close to returning

HICKORY, N.C. - Crawdads pitcher Jake Brigham has been battling an injury for the last couple of weeks, but he expects for a return to the mound within the next few games. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the 21-year-old hurler.

Making his return from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Jake Brigham has been pitching well in 2009. The right-hander hadn't appeared in a game since 2007, when he posted a 3.16 ERA in 15 starts for the short-season Spokane Indians.

Brigham was recently placed on the disabled list with Single-A Hickory and, given his relatively recent arm surgery, fans were understandably alarmed.

As it turns out, there's no reason to worry. Brigham's injury has nothing to do with his arm, and it's not at all serious.

"It is a mild strain of my oblique," Brigham explained. "I was pitching on the fourth, and it's on my left side. When I pulled down to go to the plate, that torque sort of just strained it a little bit.

"I was a little dehydrated from the bus trip the night before, and I was feeling down. I had a headache, so I think it was just lack of water in my system."

Brigham has already missed approximately two weeks with the injury, but he expects to be back in games very soon.

"I'm going to miss a couple of starts," he said. "Hopefully I'll pitch in Savannah. If not, then that next homestand for sure."

On the season as a whole, Brigham has a 5.28 ERA in 58 innings, and opponents are hitting .300 off him. However, he also has 63 strikeouts over that span and he's gradually cutting down on his walk totals.

Brigham began the season with a 1.77 ERA over his first five outings, spanning 20.1 innings. He has been inconsistent ever since—still showing flashes of brilliance—but the Florida native is pleased with his overall performance.

"The numbers don't really show it," said Brigham, "but I feel great. I've learned a lot. The pitching coach, Brad Holman, has taught me a lot. My velocity has taken off and I feel great. My arm feels great. That's all that really matters this year.

"My elbow is fine—no pain, no soreness, no fatigue or anything like that. It feels great, so I'm just glad that I can get out there and throw this year."

When pitchers return from Tommy John surgery, their velocity is often inconsistent at first. But Brigham is throwing his hardest ever, sitting in the low-90s and hitting 95 and 96 mph a few times per start. Brigham credits improved mechanics for the spike.

"Staying back and staying over the rubber," said Brigham when asked what led to it. "I was going forward too much, which probably resulted in my injury. Something that carried over from high school was that I would always drift towards the plate—hurry up."

When Brigham returns to the mound, he'll find the Crawdads either at or near first place. Regardless of how well his team is doing, Brigham has just been excited to be back on the mound and playing for a team.

"I hadn't been on the mound in a year and a half," he said. "It was awesome every day being able to go out there and be part of a team and put on a uniform. It's awesome."

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