Andrew Brackman missed all of 2008 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, then he struggled to a 5.91 ERA in his first professional season in 2009. This spring, though, Brackman has wowed coaches with improved command of his mid-90s two-seamer and hammer curveball. His changeup remains a developing third pitch, but he can throw it effectively and could jump on the fast track if he continues to make strides.
Coaches seem impressed with your bullpen sessions so far. What’s different from last year?
Brackman: I don’t know what it is from last year to this year. I mean, the only thing that’s changed has been my weight. I lost some weight. But everything is moving really good and smooth, mechanics and everything. It’s just starting to feel like college again.
Is it as simple as being further removed from the Tommy John surgery?
Brackman: I think that’s all it is. It doesn’t feel like it’s strange out there any more. It doesn’t feel strange to be on the mound. It doesn’t feel strange to be throwing. I guess it’s coming back naturally.
Was that a scary thing last year when it didn’t feel natural?
Brackman: Oh yeah, it sucked. It was just, you sometimes start thinking, will it ever come back? Will I have to pitch this way and make do? I guess it’s just repetition and experience.
I remember when Randy Johnson retired this winter, he talked a lot about the difficulty of finding his mechanics, being so tall. Is that a tricky thing for you to keep all of that in order?
Brackman: It never was before the surgery. It never was. I never had a problem with it. I guess that year of just sitting out, I just had to get everything back together. That year that I took off – not really took off, I was rehabbing – but that year away from competition and away from pitching in games, I just had to get back in the groove of things and get used to it again.
Signed out of college and put right onto the 40-man, do you put pressure on yourself to make this happen sooner rather than later?
Brackman: I did last year. I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself. This year, I’m just going to go out there like I have nothing to lose because it couldn’t get any worse than last year.