Q&A: Left-Handed Pitcher Rob Henkel

Rob Henkel was acquired by the Tigers in an offseason trade for Mark Redman from the Florida Marlins. Since then, Henkel has displayed potential as one of the best pitchers in the organization, when he's been healthy. Unfortunately, Henkel has battled the injury bug the past few years. Rob took time out of his rehab process to talk with TigsTown.com's Senior Editor Paul Wezner about his rehab and status for the upcoming season.

TigsTown: First off, how's the arm coming along, how's your rehab going?

Rob Henkel: Rehab is going extremely well, better then expected I would say. I've thrown off the mound now twice, today, and last Thursday. Velocity seems to be returning quite nicely.

TT: Who are you working with down in Lakeland?

RH: I'm working with our Strength and conditioning coaches, they have a training program for us, with running, stretching, throwing. We do some stretching and whatnot, then get into running, then we'll do a bit of throwing. Then we finish it up with about an hour, hour and a half in the weight room. And that's the routine, every day.

TT: Will you be ready for the start of the season?

RH: Yes. I'll definitely be ready to go.

TT: When you do get back to live action, which level do you expect to start at?

RH: Haven't really thought about it yet – we'll just have to wait and see. I've thought about it in the past, but you just never really know.

TT: You've been through a number of injuries the past few years - what's it been like battling back from all these injuries?

RH: Definitely taken a lot of faith and patience on my part. I know it's a lot of waiting and takes a lot of patience, I just want to endure and finish the race. The elbow surgery and the shoulder surgery have been tough, but low and behold, I'm just a couple of months away from being back in the game.

TT: You've been in two organizations since being drafted out of UCLA - The Florida Marlins organization which drafted you, and of course now the Tigers. Compare and contrast the two briefly - any noticeable differences in coaching, training staff, front office, etc.

RH: Not too many differences, maybe a little partial to the first organization, had some good success in the organization, friends with some of the guys. But no, about the same I'd say.

TT: When you were growing up, was there a pitcher you idolized or in some ways modeled yourself after?

RH: We were actually just talking about this earlier today. Chris Spurling said Nolan Ryan, he was just a model of longevity, went out every year and kept going, had the strikeout record, just everything. Randy Johnson is a pretty good left hander as well, just absolutely dominates games.

TT: Your knuckle-curve is probably the best breaking pitch in the organization, but some have suggested it might be putting too much stress on your arm. Have you experimented with any other pitches besides your basic repertoire?

RH: Not yet, I'll start throwing the curve next month. I've never really had a problem with it, it's something that I've always thrown, I feel like I throw it real easy. The shoulder was bothering me for awhile, but I was relieved to find out that there was actually something wrong, and the doctors today are just amazing, were able to go in and fix it, and now I should be ready to go.

TT: Who is the best hitter you've faced as a pitcher?

RH: Dee Haynes has had the most success against me, in the Cardinals organization. Thrown against Troy Glaus back in college in intrasquad games, he's obviously a great one.

TT: What about the best hitter you've seen in the Tigers organization?

RH: Pudge Rodriguez of course, he was just tremendous back in spring training when I faced him. Among the younger guys, I'd probably go with Chris Shelton, he's an absolute hitting machine.

TT: Finally, what's your goal for the season?

RH: To be in the big leagues, healthy . . . and just have the start of my career and get these injuries behind me. Just go forward and hopefully be healthy on a consistent basis, in whatever capacity they want me. That's what I'm working for now, to get to big leagues, and to stay there.

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