Spencer Strider heads into today’s start in the series finale against Liberty just happy to be out there.
The Clemson right-handed pitcher had Tommy John surgery just a little over a year ago, so taking the mound eyeing a sweep of the Flames is not something he’s taking for granted.
“I have a new perspective,” Strider said. “Far more calm. I’m just happy to play.”
According to multiple people who have watched him pitch, Strider has looked strong and confident since his return. However, he’ll be on a strict pitch count.
“I was surprised how natural it felt,” Strider said. “It’s been a year but that’s a long time in baseball terms, not getting to play.”
Doctors, not coaches, dictate how much he can throw during this stage of rehab. Strider will toss around 50 pitches, and then he’ll be ramped up 10 pitches at a time per outing.
“We cannot pitch him out of the bullpen because of the nature of his rehab,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “He has to start. If we start him in the middle of the week and we’re able to build his pitch count, it’s going to be a very slow process of building his pitch count. We have no chance of getting him on the weekend if we pitch him in the middle of the week. He can’t recover fast enough pitching on Tuesday to be able to pitch and start on the weekend.”
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The goal isn’t to fastrack a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery, but once he’s ramped all the way up, Strider could be a huge factor as a weekend starter. That was the role he was expected to fill a year ago, when he was forced to redshirt.
“I’m definitely ready to handle the weekend,” Strider said. “Regardless of what my position is I want to help us win. I think that’s going to evolve as the season goes along, just as it would for anybody.”
Strider isn’t nervous. He said he’s thrown enough in scrimmages to get the jitters out, but Strider still hasn’t reached a point yet where he doesn’t feel like he had surgery.
But he’s not worried about getting hurt again or anything hindering his ability to compete.
“We want to try to build Spencer up, have him on a regular pitch count,” Lee said.
Once Strider has pitched his limit today, expect to see junior Mat Clark, who went 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA, follow.
“Sort of have to look at it as an opener, which some Major League teams will do,” Lee said. “They’ll start a guy who’s one of their better relievers at the front of the game and then stretch a guy out behind him.”