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With 649 innings logged over parts of six professional seasons, Michael Schlact is more than accustomed to standing on the mound and staring down the hitter.
But Saturday's outing was just a little different.
Schlact was pitching in his first game since May 31, 2009, when he worked three innings against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
The Georgia native went on the disabled list after that game, and after attempting to rehab the right shoulder injury for two months, he underwent surgery on July 20. The official diagnosis was a partially torn rotator cuff and a partially torn labrum.
Schlact has spent nearly all of his time [including the offseason] rehabbing at the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona since that game in Arkansas. On Saturday, he got into his first game.
Pitching in an Extended Spring Training game, the 24-year-old worked a scoreless inning. The inning progressed as follows––walk, double play, groundout to first, ground ball single to center, strikeout.
The 6-foot-7 hurler relies on his sinking fastball, which sat in the upper-80s, low-90s prior to surgery. When Schlact is pitching well, he is generally getting plenty of early-count swings and ground balls with the sinker. He also mixes in a slider and a changeup.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Schlact after his game on Saturday.
Jason Cole: You got your first rehab outing on Saturday and pitched a scoreless inning. What were your thoughts?
Michael Schlact: Before the outing, I was anxious. I was ready to get out there and pitch again. Leading up to the game, I had to really think about when to start my stretching and long toss routine. Coming off surgery, my entire program has changed. The timing of my pregame is key to getting the most out of my shoulder.
Figuring out that timing was key. In hindsight, I could have thrown a few more pitches in my pregame warmup in the bullpen. Once I was out there, I tried to tell myself to breath and think about each pitch as it came.
In actuality, the outing was over before I knew it. Results-wise, I was very pleased. Each ball that was put into play was on the ground, and I was able to throw all of my pitches.
Cole: Given that it was your first outing in about a year, was there any tentativeness out there? Or were you going all-out from the start?
Schlact: There was tentativeness. In the back of my mind, at least for the first few pitches, I was curious if the pain was going to come back. I've been battling with that ever since I started throwing though.
Once I get going, trust in my program, and trust that I've worked hard to get back and healthy, that tentativeness goes away. After the first hitter, I just took a deep breath and let it go.
Cole: Was there any pain during the outing?
Schlact: None. It was completely pain-free from beginning to end.
Cole: You mentioned that you were able to throw all of your pitches. I know when you began throwing bullpens again, you were only using your fastball. At what point did you bring the slider back?
Schlact: I started throwing the slider while playing catch on non-pen days and flat ground days about a month ago. I gradually increased the number of sliders I would throw while playing catch and then incorporated it into my bullpens two or three weeks ago.
Cole: How about the changeup? When did you bring that back?
Schlact: I started throwing my changeup during the second week of bullpens.
Cole: I know I asked you this during your rehab process, but do you feel like a different pitcher on the mound from pre-surgery? Have you made any adjustments?
Schlact: My delivery is different than in the past. Also, I am definitely stronger and better conditioned than in the past. I'm not sure if that's going to translate into more velocity or not. That's something that only time will tell. But, I can tell you that I'm going to focus more on attacking the zone and getting quick outs on the ground.
Cole: Well, now that you have your first appearance out of the way, what is your schedule for the next few outings?
Schlact: I believe I throw Thursday in a two-inning, 30-35-pitch outing. Then, I think the following Tuesday, it'll be a three- or four-inning, 45-50-pitch outing.
Cole: I imagine one of your big goals during this process was to get back on the mound and pitch in a game again. What other goals have you set for your return this season?
Schlact: My goal is to finish strong, wherever that is and whatever level I am playing at. I want to show everyone that I'm healthy. I want to show everyone what kind of pitcher I can be when healthy.
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Schlact back in action
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