Camarena Finally Feeling Good Again

Though it wasn't originally scheduled to go down like it, Daniel Camarena wound up missing the entire 2015 season after having arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow back in April. A setback mid-season caused to him miss the season but now he's rehabbing his way back. In fact, this is the strongest he's felt in nearly two years and he's scheduled to make a full return in 2016.

"I'm full throwing again," he revealed. "It's just been a long year. I had the arthroscopic surgery on my elbow to remove chips and spurs, and when I came back, when I was in my throwing program, I had some setbacks.

"I had some scar tissue build up in my elbow and ended up taking a cortisone shot, and I had to start all over again. It made me really lose the year. Right now though I'm playing catch at 90 feet and I should have bullpens coming up in about two months. We're taking it real slow."

Contrary to some published reports, Daniel Camarena in fact did not have Tommy John surgery. He had surgery to remove bone chips and a bone spur back on April 10th after experiencing some pain in his elbow for the better part of several months.

"Probably the year before right when I got called up to Trenton after one of my starts," he said when he first started experiencing pain in his elbow. "It was pretty rough. Something just didn't feel right.

"It wasn't on one specific pitch. My elbow just felt weird. I had a couple of more starts and I grinded through it because there are a lot of guys who pitch with spurs and chips. It's just how much you can tolerate the pain. It just got to the point where it was just too much."

Initial MRIs though showed no tear to the ligament or any structural damage at all as a matter of fact. With the offseason upon him at that point, Camarena, a California native, decided to move to Tampa to work closely with the trainers in an effort to rehab the mysterious pain.

"I worked with them and did an offseason with them, kind of a rehab program with my elbow," he said. "I told them what was up and nothing came up in MRIs so they said to do some basic rehab and I should be good to go. I did that all offseason last year in Tampa and then in Spring Training it started barking again.

"I think it was my second to last [Spring Training] start -- I tried to get through four innings and I was barely getting the ball over the plate. I knew then that I didn't want to hurt myself anymore and that I probably needed to take some further actions."

Another MRI showed nothing so he pitched one more time in Spring Training earlier this season and that was it, the pain was simply too much. He flew to New York to see Dr. Ahmad and get a CT scan, and the result was he had been pitching with a bone spur and bone chips in his elbow unbeknownst to him.

He had surgery on April 10th to correct the issue and was in the middle of his rehab program -- making throws from 90 feet -- when the pain had returned.

"The plan when I first came out of surgery [in April] was to be back in Trenton at the halfway point of the year," he said. "I was ready to go but just with the setbacks it really derailed everything."

Elbow inflammation and scar tissue were the culprits. It then became quite evident to Camarena and the Yankees that wasn't going to be able to make his way back to the mound in 2015.

"For me it wasn't a good time. I did the surgery, I was doing the rehab, and it was just time to build back up and then scar tissue was holding me back.

"When I first went up to see [Dr.] Ahmad the second time I obviously didn't want to go back there. I was more concerned about it being something worse at that point. When he told me that all I needed was a cortisone shot, for me it was almost a blessing at that point because I didn't know if I needed Tommy John [surgery].

"I was disappointed when I learned that I needed to start the rehab process all over again and that I was not going to pitch this year from a player and competitor's point of view, yeah it sucks.

"You don't want to be sitting on the sidelines watching the whole year but I made the most with it. I work a lot with our mental conditioning coordinator and he kept me in all of these books just to keep my mind sharp, and stay positive through the whole process."

He's back throwing at 90 feet once again, the same point he was at earlier this season when he tried to initially come back. The difference though? This time he feels great.

"I feel excellent," he said emphatically. "That was the one nice thing through the rehab program, I got my lower half a lot stronger. I worked on some explosive things with my hips. I've definitely been improving on little things here and there.

"Obviously upper body I couldn't do much but right now I'm in great shape, I'm throwing, and I'm able to make all of the throws right now at the same effort level. The ball is coming out real good. It feels great. It's nice, it's been a while since I felt like this."

It's also been a while since he's been up on the mound too. In fact, he hasn't been on a mound since late March but now he's working his way closer to make a full return. The plan has him getting back up on the mound in two months and he will be reporting back to Tampa in January ready to go for Spring Training.

"That was the plan when they discussed the best option with me. There was no point in rushing back and trying to throw in a winter ball league or in the [Arizona] Fall League.

"They said 'hey, let's be healthy for next year' and when I come back for Spring Training I'll be a healthy pitcher, not a rehab [guy]. I agreed with that and I'm just doing my job right now as far as getting ready."

He is getting ready and he says with a stronger than ever lower half and feeling even better than he did when he started the 2014 season off strong in high-A Tampa that he believes he could be even better next season than he was a year ago.

"That's kind of the mindset I have right now. I've been reading all of these sports psychology books -- when you're coming back from an injury you don't want to come back the same as you were, you want to be better. That's my goal, to be better than I was before I got hurt.

"For me it's exciting because I knew how hard it was to pitch with an ailing elbow. It's hard to focus on batters and do what you want to do when all you're thinking is 'I don't want to throw this pitch because it's going to [hurt] your arm'.

"To know that when I go back to the mound that I'll be able to completely focus on my craft and what I've got to do is definitely exciting, and a big relief. I'm excited to play some baseball again. I'm definitely going to be chomping at the bit to get back up on the mound," he concluded.

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