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On Fazio And Evers

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This is Rice U, correct? Can't some brainiac devise a plan to clone your intrepid reporter and ombudsman (ha!) so that I can watch the Owls stumble about in Greenville and witness the fall debuts of RS Fr. RHP Anthony Fazio and Jr. LHP Matt Evers? Can I get some help here?

It goes without official documentation that I was bent out of shape when John L. Sullivan fired off a text message last Saturday at 6:14 p.m., alerting me that Fazio took to the bump for the first time this fall. I, like many of you, had been waiting for that moment and I remained hopeful that The OG wouldn't plunge the knife of ill timing deep into my latissimus dorsi and send Fazio to the mound while I was on the road. Alas, The OG works on schedule independent of mine, so I was forced to scurry about Monday and gather information like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter. Benevolently The OG obliged, and he shared some informative nuggets.

As previously noted (I think), Owls great Wade Townsend has been working out privately with The OG and David Pierce for the past several weeks, and he was kind enough to share some advice with Fazio on traversing the road to recovery from Tommy John surgery. Townsend underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in the fall of 2005 while Fazio endured the same procedure just prior to the start of the 2009 season. He was fast-tracked through his rehabilitation and worked out of the bullpen during individual pitching sessions last month. The coaching staff opted to delay his fall debut until the close of the second week of fall workouts.

"I think Wade helped him with the thinking that you're going to have some discomfort at times," The OG said. "A lot of that is just adhesions turning loose, and you've got to just push forward.

"If those adhesions turn loose it's going to hurt, and it's going to hurt the next day. But if it's gone the day after that then that's all it was. If it's still there two or three days (later) you may have to back off."

Fazio worked one inning last Saturday, striking out the side on just 11 pitches. If he does not experience any lingering discomfort, Fazio will make his scheduled appearance Wednesday. His first outing constituted a huge step in the right direction, especially given the role he was set to have within the staff as a true freshman before blowing out his elbow in mid-February.

"He's had a lot of time to think about it and he's immersed himself in it," The OG said of Fazio and his recovery process. "I liked pretty much everything. It looked like he had a real good changeup, the right spin on his breaking ball, and I liked his delivery. So we'll just see. We're very hopeful, and it was a very positive outing."

Evers' recovery is more mental than physical. He suffered a precipitous drop-off in productivity as a sophomore in '09, numbers so shockingly odd that a total reclamation project is in order:

2008: 4-1, 3.00 ERA, 54:23 K:BB, .232 BAA, 1.38 WHIP
2009: 4-3, 6.89 ERA, 37:34 K:BB, .311 BAA, 1.91 WHIP

Evers did enjoy a recovery of sorts pitching for the Santa Barbara Foresters (2-1, 1.44 ERA, 34:12 K:BB, .217 BAA, 1.18 WHIP) this past summer, but the coaching staff is retooling Evers' breaking pitch, which has lost its tilt. They are of the opinion that his flat slider was the source of his problems and are working diligently to reconstruct it so that Evers can regain his effectiveness. They did the same with Jeff Niemann's slider and Townsend's curveball.

"He used to have good deception, too, and that would account in part for not having good command yet," The OG said of Evers. "We're trying to get him to stay closed longer, and that would mean keeping his glove in front of the hitter longer, increase his deception, and give him a little more time to get his arm on top and get the breaking ball down and get more tilt on it."

As an experienced southpaw reliever, the coaching staff has a vested interest in getting Evers back to form. As The OG noted, when his slider has tilt it is devastating, but Evers must regain command in order to regain his spot in the back of the bullpen. He remains a work in progress.

"All a coach can do is make sure he communicates exactly what he means," The OG said. "The so-called dirty work, the amount of reps to correct a flaw (Malcolm) Gladwell talks about in The Outliers, they're up to the guy. He's got to take and run with the coaching."

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1 Comment

Nice piece, MK. That was news to me, re: Wade

At Ease: My bad on not sharing that news with the rest of the class. Sometimes I think that I put stuff in the space without actually doing so. I'll be better at that in the future. - MK

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