Hensley At The Halfway Point

Ty Hensley is rehabbing his way back from yet another injury, this time recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rather than focus on the fact he has amassed just 42 innings in his career to date, the former 2012 first round pick has his tunnel vision set solely on making a full return and now, currently at the halfway point, he is very encouraged in his ability to do just that.

It appeared Ty Hensley was finally going to make his way into the long-season leagues after making a full return from hip surgery in 2014 but that plan was initially thought to be set back some after an offseason altercation back home reportedly left him with facial fractures and other minor injuries. He proved to be right on schedule though as he made the very first Spring Training start this year against the Pirates.

He looked good in that first outing back in mid-March too, at least on the surface. Underneath and inside, however, it was actually the beginning of what would be the end to his 2015 season.

"It was a really weird deal," Hensley recounted. "I threw two innings that day and everything felt good, really nice and easy. I got two outs and threw a pitch out of the stretch after I gave up a hit. I didn't feel a pop or anything but [my arm] just started feeling tight, almost like I had to bend and straighten my arm before I threw a pitch.

"I said 'whatever' because it's Spring Training and your arm naturally isn't going to feel like it does in June or July. There wasn't a dropoff in my velo or anything. When I came back out for the second inning it wasn't loosening up or anything but I threw the second inning anyway.

"The day after that I came in and threw my side and it was just barking at me. I never felt anything like that before. I was going to come in the next day to throw just to see how it felt and if it didn't feel right I'd go and say something because I had obviously been through the ringer. So the next day I wound up having some food poisoning and missed that day but I came back the following day, threw, and everything felt okay; not great, but okay.

"I made my [next] start in Toronto the day after that. The first inning was good, I felt fine. The second inning [I had] the same situation again; I had two outs, threw a pitch out of the stretch, and it was weird. It felt like the two bones connected at my elbow stretched out and smashed against each other.

"If there was a right-handed batter I would have drilled him in the ankle. I told myself 'I'm going to throw one more pitch and if it doesn't feel good I'm going to call them out here'. I threw another pitch and it was even worse so I called them out, they came and got me."

According to MRI results a few days later it turned out that Hensley had no elbow ligament left. He reportedly had a bone that calcified inside where his ligament was supposed to be and that's what was basically holding his elbow together. He had Tommy John surgery back on March 31st.

"There's a lot of guys not just in our organization but throughout baseball who've had it, my dad included," he said. "He had it when he was playing. I don't know that I was necessarily crushed but I think it was more frustration; 'you've got to be kidding me, I've got to do this for another year? I've got to sit out another year, watch baseball, and rehab my way back up again?'

"I'd say for about a month I was just angry, not really at anybody but just the situation. I [leaned on] my family and friends, and I got over it. It's way behind me."

It was just the latest in what has developed into a litany of injuries ever since his first round selection.

"What other weird thing could possibly happen to me? From the beginning I really took a different approach with this though," he said. "I've bounced back from other stuff before.

"I don't think though that I've take the rehab [process] as seriously as I have this time from a total body aspect. Part of it is a blessing but a big part of it sucks too because it takes so long to get through it all. I feel great now."

He's already at the halfway point in his rehab though, about three weeks into throwing from 90 feet. He has about five more weeks of 50 throws from that distance before moving up to 120 feet, which is about six weeks ahead of Austin DeCarr's current rehab schedule.

"I feel good," he said. "I would definitely say I'm in the best of my life. It has its days, especially in the beginning of the week where you don't feel as strong as the end of the week, but I feel good. I feel really good.

"I don't want to get too ahead of myself but if everything goes the way it's supposed to I'll be participating in Spring Training just like anybody else. I'll be building back up to five innings [like everyone else]."

Currently rooming with DeCarr and pairing together as rehab-mates, Hensley, who has been snakebit with injuries essentially since the start of his career, simply doesn't even think about that anymore. He has focused all of his energy simply on getting better.

"That hip surgery put me out a whole year but it did nothing but make everything better; my range of motion, mobility, strength, everything is so much better than I thought it would be. I lost a year having that done but I think it brought me years towards the end of my career whenever that will be.

"I feel like there was a reason I had to go through all of that crap but I don't think about it anymore. I just think about today, the day that's here. I don't really think past it or behind it."

With surgically repaired hips and now a new elbow too, it's almost like Hensley is becoming the pitching version of the 'Bionic Man', a reference and joke that Hensley himself can somewhat see and embrace.

"I'm laughing because I know how true that is," he said with a smile "I'm like a robot. I don't think there's anything left in me that they can fix. I have no more excuses. I think being a little bit older [now] and having gone through something like this before helps."

It also helps seeing that another pitcher who missed his first three professional seasons in the form of Mets' rookie hurler Steven Matz still eventually made his way up to the big leagues, and Hensley believes he has it in him to do a similar feat once he returns from his latest setback [Hensley, with 42.2 career innings, has actually pitched more than Matz did at similar points in their careers].

"Ironically we have the same agent. He definitely had a rough go of it [too]. Absolutely, I think these surgeries I've had have only helped me be better than what I was when I was 18 [years old]. Learning from experience is one thing but I think there's something to be said for being away from the game, watching it, and learning more about yourself personally.

"I think I've been doing my learning off the field. It sucks to say but I don't think I've missed any learning or developing time being away because I've always paid attention to what I've been doing.

"It sucks that I got into the organization and a lot of people got excited and that people have had to wait so long to see what they have. I'm definitely excited to show what I've got," he concluded.


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