LAKELAND, Fla. — The ghosts of injury are always looming.
Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Endrys Briceno lost most of 2014 to the ever-common Tommy John surgery and its rehab, but the hurler’s initial fear of a career ending injury is now put to rest with positivity as he prepares for a come back.
Along with physical preparation comes the difficult mountain of mental preparation once an athlete is expected to return from crippling a lapse. Although strength and conditioning is important, overcoming discouragement is sometimes the hardest part.
“At first I was afraid of my injury ending my career,” said Briceno at Tiger Town on Friday morning. “I spoke to a lot of people, including my family in the process of recovery. But yes, in general I was very afraid of my career ending because of the injury.”
Tommy John surgery is what some experts consider an “epidemic” among pitchers as 31 procedures were done last season for torn ulcer collateral ligaments (UCL) in the MLB alone. For Briceno though, it’s difficult to tell he faced that uphill battle as he readies himself for training.
“I’m really happy to be with my friends and teammates right now,” said Briceno.
“I’m doing bullpen (work) and as soon as I am ready and able to pitch again I’ll be happier to be on the team.”
The huge advantage of being a part of a professional team such as the Tigers is the invaluable resources provided during injuries such as Briceno’s, including colleagues who have gone through the same thing.
“There is a psychologist on the team which I used,” said Briceno.
“But the biggest work is done with the trainers and other guys who have gone through the same procedure and surgery. The biggest fear I had to overcome was not being afraid to try again, ” he said.
Despite 11 grueling months of rehabilitation, Briceno’s goals go far beyond just staying healthy and injury free, they include overall self improvement.
“I’m working on consistency, getting in the strike zone and attacking the batters really fast and improving that because that has effected me in years before,” said Briceno with a glimmer of motivation.
“I feel better about my recovery and my arm feels really good. Right now I’m ready to pitch again”