Return to mound nearing for Schlact

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Right-hander Michael Schlact had practically his entire 2009 season wiped out after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he is scheduled to return about one month into the 2010 campaign. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 24-year-old to discuss his rehabilitation process.

Right-hander Michael Schlact hasn't pitched competitively since May 31, 2009, but he is on the verge of returning.

The 24-year-old hurler had surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder on July 20 last year.

Schlact began feeling the effects of the injury early on, as he was initially shut down after just one start. In that outing, Schlact yielded two runs in three innings of work against Arkansas before being pulled from the game.

After resting for two weeks, Schlact returned to the mound. He logged three more innings against San Antonio, and then made his next start, this time pitching four innings against the Missions.

Once again, Schlact had to be shut down after surrendering five runs on 12 hits in only four innings. He took nearly an entire month off to rest his shoulder [between May 5 and May 31] and returned to the mound against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Unfortunately, the results weren't any better for the Georgia native. Schlact gave up five runs in just three innings, and he lost practically all strength in his arm during the outing.

Realizing Schlact had a relatively major issue, the Rangers shut him down once again and they eventually opted for surgery on his right shoulder.

Schlact has been rehabbing the injury ever since, spending most of his time at the club's Spring Training complex in Surprise, Ariz.

When healthy, Schlact lives off his upper-80s, low-90s sinker, which has excellent action and has helped him post excellent ground ball rates throughout his career while also generally working on economic pitch counts. He also uses a slider and a changeup along with the occasional four-seam fastball, which can get up into the 92-93 mph range.

The 6-foot-7, 205-pound Schlact is entering the final stages of his rehabilitation process, and he should be returning to game action this May. The 2010 campaign will be extremely important for Schlact, as he is entering his six-year free agency year. The pitcher has a good frame and solid stuff, but he must begin to produce consistent results.

Jason Cole: Start off by talking to me about what you did today specifically in your rehab.

Michael Schlact: Well, today I did 15 throws at 75 feet, 15 throws at 90 feet, and 15 throws at 120 feet. I brought it in, took a five minute break, and followed it with 15 throws at 90 feet and a 20-pitch flat ground. That was nice. It was the first day with a real catcher crouching down. The other day was not really anything–this was a legitimate flat ground, which was nice.

Cole: That five minute break–is that to kind of simulate the time off you get between innings?

Schlact: Yeah, taking a break simulates kind of the rest your arm would get on an average inning. Then you get back up there and get firing again. That was nice.

Cole: When you're throwing like that, are you using anything but fastballs?

Schlact: I'm strictly fastball. They don't want me to mix in anything else until I can gain the arm strength necessary to do that.

Cole: Tell me about this process. Since I've been out here, I've seen you coming out just for a few minutes of the team workouts, getting your throwing in, and then you're done for the day. How frustrating is that?

Schlact: The hardest part for me is watching everybody else go through the day-to-day thing. Watching a guy play catch and then go out there and just throw a bullpen like it's nothing–that's what I've done my whole career. It's frustrating.

Everything I took for granted before is coming back. The hardest part is that it's the same thing every day. It's watching guys throw bullpens with no problem when I'm out here just having to take my time.

Cole: Do you feel like you're going to be any different as a pitcher when you do come back? Are you going to do something different mechanically?

Schlact: The big thing for me is working on my front side. My big thing was always opening up on my front side, and that's not going to happen anymore. The second I started throwing, I started firming up that front side so I wouldn't fly open.

I think the other thing is that I'm going to start to get really good at what I do. I'm not going to try and be any other pitcher. I know what kind of pitcher I am now, and I'm going to stay true to that. I'm going to get really good at my craft–I'm not going to mold and try to be somebody else.

Cole: Do you feel part of that is because your six-year free agency is coming up and there should be more emphasis on results than pure development this year?

Schlact: Yeah, obviously I've got to get out there and show people that I'm healthy, first and foremost. I guess the reason for that is I want to be able to show people what I have. I want to go out there and be comfortable. Like you said, if I can't look comfortable, I can't look like I'm healthy, and I can't throw strikes, who knows what will happen. Those are the things you have to do.

Cole: How long do you think it'll be until you're back to throwing normal bullpen sessions?

Schlact: I would say–next week I'm going to get off the short mound, which is a half mound. I think what they're shooting for is pretty close to when minor league games start. So that's the last part of March–the last two weeks of March. I'll start my bullpens and then we'll go from there.

Cole: Is there a chance that you could be getting a little bit of game action before camp breaks, or is it most likely not going to be until Extended Spring Training?

Schlact: From what it sounded like, what we're talking about is live batting practice during the first week of extended, and then after that I'll start getting innings there. Beyond that, they haven't really talked about it. They want me to work on day-to-day kind of stuff. I'm just taking it as it comes.

Cole: With so much time away from the mound, have you ever thought about what it will be like when you do get back out there in a competitive situation again?

Schlact: It does a lot. Now that I'm actually throwing, it's something that I think about every time I'm out there. I think, first and foremost, I'm just going to be blessed to be back out there. I've been playing this game since I was eight. It's just one of those things where I'm going to be really happy to be out there in a competitive situation again.

I think the thing I'm going to have to watch out for is not to get too excited–not to let the adrenaline get ahold of you. The second you start overthrowing, you get out of who you are. It's going to be humbling.

Cole: You got your start in the AZL, here at this complex. And when you're back pitching in games, it'll be here as well. I guess that'll be like a second pro debut, right?

Schlact: Yeah. I'm sure I'll be on the same field where I made my pro debut. It's kind of like a new beginning, I guess.

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