Michael Schlact is a pitcher in the Texas Rangers system. Last season, his third in the Texas League, he underwent surgery for tears in his rotator cuff and labrum. We met up on Twitter a few weeks ago, and he was willing to answer a few questions about the mental and physical aspects of the rehab process.
I found a description of your injury in a previous interview. How did you know you were injured? Is this the sort of injury where you feel some discomfort and it ends up being serious, or was it obviously bad from the start?
There were times over the past few years where I felt some arm fatigue, but nothing pain-wise. My first start of last year, I felt something painful while throwing a slider, and that’s when I knew something was really wrong.
Did you try to pitch or work through it before deciding on surgery?
We tried to rehab my shoulder first. It was something that the Rangers medical staff and I determined would be more beneficial than going right ahead for surgery.
How supportive have the Rangers been throughout your rehab?
They have been there for me every step of the way. The medical team the Rangers have on board is great. Being able to rehab with such knowledgeable people makes the process that much easier.
How has your rehab schedule progressed? For instance, how does a typical day of work in September 2009 compare to a typical day in March 2010?
A typical day in September of 2009 was range of motion exercises, rotator cuff strengthening, light leg workouts, and lots and lots of running. March 2010 workouts are almost typical of what I have done my entire career. There are a few exercises or lifts that I can’t do because they are overhead exercises, but other than that, I’m good to go!
What has been the toughest part of coming back?
The toughest part of coming back is the isolation you feel. Being in Arizona rehabbing while your teammates are out winning ballgames and actually playing is tough. When baseball is yanked from under you, it kind of hits home. I went through a very tough period last summer when I realized that my season was over. Working out and doing shoulder exercises just to get stronger and not to pitch can be very tough!
You were a sinker-slider-fastball pitcher before the injury, right? Will you continue to use all the pitches you did before, or are you changing your repertoire to reduce strain on your shoulder?
I was a sinker, slider, change guy before the injury. I have pitched with that repertoire for a long time. There is no reason to change it just because of my injury. Mechanics more likely caused strain on my shoulder.
You tweeted last week about your return to the mound. What did that session entail?
It was 20 pitches off a short mound. A short mound is the same distance to home, but the incline of the mound is half of a regulation MLB mound. I threw all fastballs, and really just worked on the mental side of it. Trusting my stuff, understanding that I have done enough so that my shoulder won’t hurt anymore, and to start shaking the rust off.
When the time comes to really cut loose, how do you push aside that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Are you sure you really want to do that?”
I think self-talk. I am a self-talker out there on the mound anyways. When I hear that little voice (not crazy I promise) I will tell myself out loud what I really want to do. For instance, if that little voice says, “Are you sure you really want to let it go?” I’ll say (into my glove), “Alright Michael, let’s go. Trust your stuff, trust your mechanics. You’re ok.”
How do you think it will feel, the first time you step back onto the mound in a real live game?
It’s going to be the best feeling. It’s like a new beginning for me. So many things that I have taken for granted the past years will be soaked in. Each minute I am out there will be cherished. I’m going to do my absolute best, give it my all, have fun, and see what happens!