Phillies’ pitcher Mike Nesseth shows resiliency in face of adversity

Philly prospect overcomes Tommy John injury, alters mechanics

Phillies' prospect Mike Nesseth hails from Windom, Minnesota.
Phillies’ prospect Mike Nesseth hails from Windom, Minnesota. (Mike Nesseth)

CLEARWATER, FL- Despite having numerous reasons to walk away from the game, Mike Nesseth refuses to quit.

The Philadelphia Phillies right-hander has been drafted twice, undergone Tommy John surgery, and was forced to drastically alter his mechanics, all before the age of 25.

“You can only control what you can and you just need to focus on what you can, and not worry about the rest,” said Nesseth.

“Just go out, do your thing and everything will work itself out.”

Nesseth was originally selected in the 15th round of the 2009 June Amateur Draft by the Los Angeles Angels, but decided to return to the University of Nebraska, finishing his degree before re-entering the draft the following year. The Phillies then drafted him in the 17th round in 2010.

“It just didn’t work out with the Angels, like I didn’t get the money that I wanted so I went back to school”, said Nesseth.

“I knew that if I put up the same results I did the year before that I should be just fine. I ended up getting hurt that next year in 2010, when I got drafted by the Phillies but they saw enough in me and now here I am.”

While pitching for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League in 2009, Nesseth began to experience discomfort in his right elbow. Believing the pain to be only minor discomfort, he was briefly shut down before attempting to pitch again. That’s when team doctors finally realized Nesseth partially tore his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (elbow joint).

“Your UCL can tear and it can go instantly, like an ACL [Anterior Cruciate Ligament], but mine was a gradual tear,” said Nesseth.

“It was painful for a long period of time. I’d take time off and it got better but when I started up about a month later it got worse and worse.”

Newly formed mechanics

Unlike many pitchers whose main focus is to regain velocity following Tommy John surgery, Nesseth remains concentrated on mastering his newly formed mechanics, as well as staying healthy.

“It’s not like college where you only play 60 games,” said Nesseth.

“You get 140 games here and 162 in the major leagues, not counting October so you’ve got to prepare yourself to be healthy. You’ve got to be able to build muscle memory to sustain your delivery for a long period of time.”

After going 2-2 with an impressive 2.76 ERA last season with the Clearwater Threshers of the Florida State League, Nesseth has heightened expectations heading into the 2013 season. While some guys measure that in wins or strikeouts, Nesseth chooses to gauge his success in a slightly different way.

“Staying healthy is my number one goal every year,” said Nesseth.

“Being able to execute your pitches throughout the whole season is going to give you the best results in the end.”

After catching him in an extended spring training game two years ago, Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz was impressed with the youngster, even suggesting flashes of [staff ace] Roy Halladay in him. Nessetgh wasn’t buying the compliment.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere close to him,” said Nesseth.

“There are some similarities, like everybody knows he works his tail off and I’ve been a hard worker my whole life. But seeing his approach to it, it really gears you up to work your tail off.”