Patrick Teale

Austin DeCarr spent his 2016 season rehabbing his way back from Tommy John and is now looking forward to next season and beyond.

Statistically it was an okay season for right-hander Austin DeCarr in his first season back after Tommy John surgery, posting a very respectable 4.12 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees. Behind the numbers, however, he never really felt completely back stuff-wise or even command-wise and now he's looking forward to seeing more progress made in 2017 and beyond.

The good news is he answered the proverbial bell every five days, making ten starts in the New York Penn League after missing the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, and going a perfect 2-0 in those starts.

"I think it was alright," he said of his season.  "It was good to get back out there and throwing in games again, kind of getting used to competing once again.  So from that perspective it was alright.  There were some good outings and some bad outings, stuff to build off of.  There's some good things I'm taking into this offseason to work on and come out ready to go in Spring Training."

They say the first season back from Tommy John surgery is all about learning to compete again and getting your strength back.

"I think my body was strong.  We worked out a lot during the rehab but [with my] arm strength, my velo hasn't fully come back yet.  I think the downtime [this offseason] will be good for it.  Once I get going again [after some rest] it should just feel looser and the velo should pick back up."

Armed with a 92-95 mph fastball after his third round selection in 2014, DeCarr's velocity hovered mainly in the 88-92 mph range this past year.  Still looking for his full velocity to return, even his once power plus curveball wasn't really fully back this year either.

"Some days it was pretty good, some days it wasn't," he admitted.  "It's just another thing I'm going to be working on just to get the feel back and the consistency for it.  It should be good to go [come Spring Training].  I have confidence that my stuff should be a lot better in Spring Training."

Ironically, about the only pitch in his arsenal that was at least back to its pre-surgery form or better was his once non-existent changeup.  In fact, the one real ancillary benefit of going through the Tommy John procedure is coming out with a better changeup than the one going into it and that was clearly the case with DeCarr.

"Before the surgery I didn't really throw a changeup that much," he said.  "I threw it but it was like five percent of the time so that was a big thing I worked on in the throwing progression and in the bullpens during rehab and getting feel for it.

"I definitely developed a lot more confidence in it and threw it more in the game.  It's a feel pitch though so the more you throw it and the time you spend practicing it you'll develop more feel and confidence with it taking it into the game.  I look forward to continuing to improve on that.

"It was inconsistent too though.  Sometimes I'd grip it too hard and yank it into the ground.  When I trusted it and let it fade and run to my arm side, those were good.  I'd take enough velocity off of it compared to the fastball to get good deception on the hitter.  I trusted it a lot more than I did before the surgery and hopefully next year I'll trust it even more than I did this year.  I just need to keep throwing it and keep improving on it."

If it sounds like he wasn't his complete self on the mound in 2016 it's because he wasn't.  He never fully regained the plus velocity in his fastball, his one-time plus curveball wasn't consistent for him, and even though his changeup was better it too wasn't the go-to weapon he needed.  In fact, he never really had a go-to pitch this year at all.

"They told me it was all about getting my feet wet [after surgery] and getting back out there but I wanted to compete as hard as I can.  I wanted to be as good as I was before the surgery.  Do I feel like I performed that way?  Probably not, but I think that's part of the process.  I just have to keep working to get back to that level.

"In the back of my mind I probably knew my stuff wasn't quite there yet but I still had to go out there and figure out a way to get hitters out.  From that perspective I learned a lot and I just think once my stuff is there it will make things that much easier."

Of course it isn't easy for Tommy John surgery recipients in the first place.  Nearly every pitcher who endures the surgery follows it with a year straight of throwing with virtually no rest, which is why it does take a while for most to get their full velocities back.

"I threw from August of 2015 to August of this year so it's a year straight.  That's how it is for all guys rehabbing from Tommy John and guys who've had it before told me that 'by the end of the full calendar year of throwing you'll be pretty tired and you'll need that downtime', and by that first Spring Training back you'll be feeling a lot better', and I definitely already do.  I'm excited about it."

He's finally getting some much needed rest these days and he says even though the offseason has really just begun he can still feel a big-time difference.

They say it takes a full 18 months after Tommy John surgery to get all of your stuff back.  And for DeCarr, who had his surgery in May of 2015, he is really only now approaching the 18-month post-surgery mark.  So while he might not be too happy with the results of his first season back, he is excited about things to come moving forward.

"I didn't really know what to expect.  I was just thinking about getting healthy and getting my strength back, and getting back out there and competing again.  I figured everything else would take care of itself.  I'm kind of moving forward now and getting ready for Spring Training.

"I feel like the offseason is going really well.  I think my arm is definitely feeling really good right now.  Just taking a little bit of time off from throwing is helped it to recuperate a little bit.  I'm definitely excited to go into Spring Training and going into next year being ready to go right from the get-go," he concluded.

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