Saturday, February 27, 2010
Matt Chico--Feeling 150% Better
Matt Chico has not pitched a baseball game in a Washington Nationals uniform since May 21st, 2008. On that day against The Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Our Number 47 completely tore his left throwing elbow ligament from it's bone. A tear that has sidelined his career for the past 21 months. In 2009, Matt threw 15 rehab assignments for Hagerstown (Single A) and Harrisburg (Double A). Only recently, has an injury free Chico taken his left handed throwing talent back to the mound with direction in mind. He is in camp at Viera, Florida looking to resurrect his Big League Career.
Sohna and I caught up with Matt Chico after today's rainy practice.
I was reading the other day that you were feeling good for the first time in a long time?
“Yeah, it has been a while since I felt really good and was in no pain. Right now, it’s free and easy when I throw.”
Remember last year, when we briefly talked in Bowie while you were playing for Harrisburg. How difficult was that experience for you to get everything back together again?
“While I was there, I was still rehabbing. I was really just trying to find my groove. My location wasn’t there. Of course, that is expected. I think at that time I was at about 13 months after surgery. It took until the last two starts I had (in 2009) before I felt I was where I needed to be and just needed to get a little stronger. My speed started to come back after those two starts. My location was better. There was a bright, bright, ending to the difficult last year and one half.”
Knowing athletes, it must have been pretty frustrating for you for a long time?
“Yes, it definitely was. Sitting around, being down here (Matt lives in Viera)--I wanted to go out and play and I wasn’t able to. The rehab was giving me one inning here, sit for five days, pitch one more inning, to sit for five more days--that was really frustrating. It was like I didn’t belong, but it’s part of coming back. During the journey, I was not upset, but: ‘God, I want to go more!!’ Now, I appreciate going slowly more than ever because I have advanced to where I am right now in terms of health.”
How difficult was it to fight the doubt that you would recover and still have a Major League Career?
“Really, I never had any doubt. I knew that as long as I do what I am suppose to and do all my strengthening work--it would all come back. It was just a matter of time. There was no doubt, whatsover. The recovery period was more time than I wanted it to be, but it’s all worked out.”
So now, what do you have to do to convince Mike Rizzo you could be an integral part of this team again?
“I think I need to pitch like I know how to pitch. It’s been a long time since I felt healthy and pitched well without any pain. For about three years before I popped my elbow, I wasn’t feeling pain, but I knew something wasn’t just right. My range of motion wasn’t there. I would get real sore in the elbow after starts. I thought, oh, it must just be tendinitis. The doctors said it was just gradually starting to go. The bone started to tear from my ligament and that finally forced everything to finally snap. Now, all of that has gone away. There is zero pain.”
Before the surgery, there was that talk to get you back to throwing across your body after struggling with an newly adopted windup. How are you pitching now?
“I am still across my body. But with being healthy now, I can extend my range on each toss--before I couldn’t do that--especially across my body. I was falling off. Now, I can get through the pitch and stay where I want to with the leg kick while still going across my body.”
Right before you went down with that serious injury, there was this game where you were throwing in the low 90’s on your pitches--not normal for you.....
“I remember that was against The Braves. The first two starts I was at 82 or 83 MPH. That particular game, I was throwing like 90. I shouldn’t have been doing that because from what I have learned is that right before you pop your elbow, your speed just jumps. And shortly after that--I popped my elbow.”
“But moving forward, my last two starts of 2009, I was right around 89 to 92. Hopefully, that is where I can stay. If I gain a little more speed, which I don’t think I will, so be it. But, I hope it is possible.”
There is a lot of competition in this current camp. You are coming back from injury, out of the lineup for nearly two years. What kind of legitimate chance do you think you are going to get to make the roster?
“I really try not to think about it that much. I am really taking it day by day. Today, I am glad that when I wake up in the morning I can still come out and throw without pain. That is where I am out right now. I want to go there and pitch like I can. If I can get the job done, I will have a job. But that is their decision, not mine.”
There is a relief to all this baseball activity for you, isn’t it?
“You better believe it. I am just happy to be able to compete for a spot right now knowing how I can throw.”
You feel 100% ready to give it your all?
"I feel 150% better than at any time since I was injured two years ago. Truly the difference between night and day. I wake up every morning and I want to throw right now. (laughter)”
“It’s been a while since I felt like that. Baseball is fun again.” (Smiling Broadly)
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