Monday, February 28, 2011

Garrett Mock--In His Own Words

Making the squad out of spring training in 2010, Garrett Mock was looking to finally establish himself in the Major Leagues. One start into his regular season, his Big League season was over. After allowing two home runs and five walks to The New York Mets on April 9th, Our Washington Nationals optioned Mock to AAA Syracuse. But before Mock made even made one start at Syracuse doctors diagnosed a slipped disk in his neck--which required surgery and started a long process back to the playing field.

Garrett Mock's neck injury, surgery and subsequent rehabilitation is a story all on its own. In his own words--Garrett Mock talked at length with Nats320 about the entire ordeal:

Mock: It was a weird deal to be honest. The surgery I had done was not common in baseball.  Remember how cold it was last year in spring training? (Yeah—Nats320) I came out here and it was kind of cold. Well, one day I woke up and I felt like I had a crick in my neck and I figured it would go away.  And it did--but I ended up with a little soreness, a knot in the back of my shoulder. It wasn’t anywhere that caused any worry. Who doesn’t have a knot in their shoulder? So I went in (to the trainers) and got treatment on it.

Coming out here and throwing—it was really cold, pretty windy. We all have hand warmers in our pockets for those days but it took a little bit more time to get going. During my first few throws I couldn’t feel the ball in my hand and I really didn’t think much of it. Once I did get loose, I was fine.  And then during the first few outings last spring, I had some pretty good outings. I threw the ball really well. All the things I needed to work on, trusting my stuff, was going just fine. I was throwing the ball real well. Then slowly but surely things just got worse.

Instead of being able to throw fine after I got stretched out, by the time the 3rd, 4th or 5th inning came around, it would take all my warmup pitches just to feel like I could throw a strike. But then I would have good innings and some bad ones where I walked a couple of guys, give up a bloop hit and then get out of it. So eventually I threw against The Mets (on April 9th) and it was pretty cold that night. I still had a little soreness in my shoulder when I threw against The Mets and I walked five guys and gave up two home runs in three and a third innings but only gave up two runs.

So I am walking guys and making pitches and getting outs. I was battling as hard as I’ve ever battled before in my life. And in that particular game, both home runs I gave up came on 0-2 counts—where I was trying to make a pitch off the plate and caught too much of the plate. Anyways, after the day I started, I was playing catch with Craig Stammen. The guys playing catch in line with us had a ball get loose and it kind of ricochet. I was JUST STANDING THERE.  I saw the ball get away and I just said: ‘Hey!' (as Garrett reaches out with his right arm to catch the baseball). I reached for it and my neck just (hands slapping together) popped!! I just went down to the ground. Everyone thought I got hit with the baseball. I was laying there in the dirt and I couldn’t really feel my arm. I said to myself: ‘This is weird?’ I got up and went back over to Craig—he had to throw. I started to flick the ball back to him and everything went numb. It was like I lost total control of my right hand and arm.

Even then, before the neck popped, I would be eating cereal and the spoon just fell out of my hand. I would be walking to the parking lot and my keys would fall out of my hand. I hated myself for it. What’s wrong with me? Be an athlete. I am eating cereal and the spoon falls out of my hand. My son can eat cereal with a spoon and I can’t right now? I had no clue what was wrong with me. Then my neck popped, my hand went numb and then everything went back to normal—as if I hadn’t been hurt at all.

So while the trainers were looking into things, I went to get a workout in. So I went in early that morning to tell ‘Skip’ (Jim Riggleman) something is just not right. If I throw a bullpen and it doesn’t go well, I am just going to have to miss a start. Here I was walking into his office to talk to him about it and they were calling me into the office to tell me that walking five guys and giving up a couple of bombs—that’s not going to cut it—which I agree (chuckling).  So they optioned me down (to AAA). But I got to throw a bullpen. One way or the other, if I go and throw a bullpen and it doesn’t feel well, I am not going to make a start in AAA.  I ended up throwing 15 pitches—off the backstop, in the dirt—and I was just throwing fastballs  down the middle. I was just trying to throw fastballs down the middle and I was throwing the ball all over the place.

It hurt bad, physically. My arm felt fine but it just doesn’t work. The trainers had been looking at it since the day my neck popped, but my arm really didn’t hurt. They had conducted all these tests and everything turned out great. They are trying to figure out if something is hurting. They are stretching me out and as they saw and I felt: ‘Feels good, I don’t know what’s going on?’ Eventually they found I had a ruptured disk in my neck. It had been calcified and that part broke out and landed on a nerve—and that’s what caused everything to go bad.

So I had surgery, it went well. I got a little scar (on the back of his neck). It was about 6-8 weeks that I was out before I could resume normal activity and go through spring training again. I was here (in Viera) pretty much the entire 2010 season. It was a weird surgery. The rehab was strange. Some days I felt great, others not. I was at times throwing BB’s and others I had no idea what was going on.

They sent me out on a rehab assignment in August. Some days it would be great and others not so. On one rehab start I think I struck out eight guys in three innings. The next rehab start I threw pretty much the exact same amount of pitches against the same team and I had no idea where the ball was going. It was frustrating. But at the end of the season, I got stretched out. My last rehab start I threw six innings and didn’t walk anybody. I really finished up on a strong note last year.

And in this off-season, I got the proper rest so I feel like I am back—much better than I did last spring.  Going home, resting and doing the training—getting heavy into the weight training—getting my body back in line—I feel really, really good this spring and I am ready to compete.  I don’t feel I have to prove myself again. As far as what I am capable of doing, I’ve done well before. The way the ball is coming out of my hand feels great now. I am not going to put more pressure on myself to try to prove anything to anybody. I am literally reverting back to the exact mindset I had the entire time—which is that I am not going to do myself any good if I am not throwing strikes.

Garrett Mock--In His Own Words.

Photo Credit--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

DND said...

Great story, we hope he makes it all the way back and stays healthy.