Michael Schlact entered the 2009 season with some well-deserved optimism. During the previous August, the 6-foot-8 right-hander posted a 2.78 earned-run average over his four starts. The next time he took the mound competitively, in Spring Training, his results were outstanding.
Then, during his first outing of the '09 campaign, Schlact ran into trouble. The 23-year-old lasted just three innings against the Arkansas Travelers before leaving the game with an injury.
Schlact spent the next two weeks on the disabled list and resting his arm, and he returned 15 days later to pitch against the San Antonio Missions. Although Schlact pitched just three innings once again, he felt fine.
Remaining in the rotation, the Georgia native pitched just a week later, and he surrendered five runs on 12 hits in four innings of work. It was becoming apparent that something wasn't quite right.
The Rangers sent Schlact to the club's complex in Arizona for him to rest his arm. After throwing some side sessions, Schlact returned to the RoughRiders for a start against Northwest Arkansas. Yet again, Schlact lasted just three innings and struggled, giving up five runs on eight hits.
While the hurler didn't feel discomfort immediately after his start on May 31, the pain eventually came. After taking a closer look, the Rangers decided it was surgery time for Schlact, and he spent the remainder of his season rehabbing in Arizona.
In the end, Schlact's 2009 season was pretty much a lost cause. He made four total starts and three trips to the disabled list. But, barring major setbacks, Schlact should be ready to go near the beginning of the 2010 campaign.
Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with Schlact, as he rehabs from his home in Georgia.
Jason Cole: You went on the disabled list three different times this year, right?
Michael Schlact: I was initially hurt on my first start. I went on the disabled list then. Then I came back and got hurt again after two starts. I went on the disabled list again. I came back one more time then went on again to finish the year.
Cole: When did you initially start to notice that something in your shoulder wasn't quite right?
Schlact: In the third inning of my first start. It was just on one pitch. It felt like someone punched me in the back of the shoulder.
Cole: In your other three starts this season, did you ever have the same sort of pain?
Schlact: I did in the first one, but not the second one. And then I did in the third one, but not the fourth one.
Cole: So if you were pain-free in the fourth start, why did you end up getting shut down for the remainder of the year?
Schlact: I threw a live BP session after that start, and I felt like I had nothing for the rest of the day. Then I woke up at like three in the morning and I was in terrible pain. It was like there was no strength—a dead-arm feeling.
Cole: Were you ever told if there was any buildup to this injury, or did it just all kind of happen on that one pitch?
Schlact: They never really said. A lot of the fraying in the rotator cuff was not terrible, so it could have been building. But I believe most of the damage was on that one pitch.
Cole: What exactly was the final diagnosis of the injury?
Schlact: It was a partially torn posterior rotator cuff, partially torn labrum. The surgery was called a rotator cuff debridement. It's identical to what Brandon Webb recently had.
Cole: When did Brandon Webb have that surgery?
Schlact: Just a few weeks after me, by the same doctor [Rangers team doctor Keith Meister].
Cole: Tell me about the surgical and rehab process that you've gone through so far. First off, when did you have the surgery?
Schlact: I had the surgery on July 20. It's an arthroscopic surgery. He goes in and shaves off the frayed or torn debris in my shoulder. He said pre-surgery that it's like walking with gravel in your shoe, and post-surgery is like having Dr. Scholl's gel insoles.
He then uses heat of some sort and basically shrinkwraps the tears and loose areas. I'm not sure what that procedure is called. The heat acts as if you were heating a nylon rope or a shoelace—it hardens it again and helps smooth it out and tighten the muscles back up.
Cole: I assume you were in a sling after the surgery. How long did you have to wear the sling around for?
Schlact: I can't remember exactly. I think for about two weeks.
Cole: I know life on the rehab crew in Surprise can be tough, and you were still having to go to rehab even with the sling. What were you doing then?
Schlact: Rehab consisted of taking off my sling and doing very small things. I would do range of motion. I would prop against a training table with my left arm and with my legs spread and right arm hanging down. Then I'd use my body weight to swing it in circles and back and forth to get blood flowing and break up scar tissue and stuff. Those were the very first things I did.
After that, I started doing arm raises to shoulder height, both in front of my body and to the side. I gradually worked day-by-day until I could get them over my head. That was the initial two weeks or so—just range of motion.
Cole: Have you so much as picked up a baseball since surgery?
Schlact: Nope, not since mid-June.
Cole: At what point are you expecting to be throwing again?
Schlact: Mid-December, I believe. But only a few times, at 45 feet, before I go back to Arizona. Just barely tossing to get the shoulder in the correct motion.
Cole: If everything goes according to schedule, when will you be back to throwing off a mound?
Schlact: I'm not sure. We didn't really go over that before I left. But my throwing program starts getting going pretty good once I get back to Arizona. I would guess that I won't be that far off from everyone else.
Cole: Do you have a goal in mind as far as when you'd like to be back pitching in games?
Schlact: I would love to be back for minor league camp, but I understand that you have to take injury slow, and it's more important to be 100 percent than to try and rush it and damage something worse.
But being ready to go with everyone else for the season is my ultimate goal. However, I guess I won't know until I start throwing. It depends on if there are any setbacks or whatnot.
Cole: Once you come back to the mound, are you planning on changing your mechanics are all? Was it mechanics that caused the injury?
Schlact: I believe it had to do with mechanics. I think that my delivery may have been a little too quick, causing my arm to drag behind my body, which puts a lot of strain on my shoulder.
The first thing I'll do is go in and talk to Danny Clark about it. I want to see what his thoughts are. Ultimately, I'd like to simplify things. I want something real repeatable and something that works with my body type.
Cole: Obviously you were battling the shoulder injury from the first start of the season, and that caused your numbers to take a hit. What were your thoughts on your final results?
Schlact: Well, I had the best Spring Training out of any previous year. I felt strong, and my results were great. To head into the season on such a high note was a wonderful thing.
My numbers this year don't say anything about what kind of pitcher I am, in my opinion. My motivation stems from wanting to be back out there on the mound. Wanting to be with my teammates again, and ultimately helping the Rangers in the big leagues one day.
Schlact turns focus to 2010
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