Nationals hitting prospect Matt Skole recovered from a well-known baseball injury this summer: Tommy John surgery. But what was unusual is that Skole is not a pitcher and the injury occurred to his non-throwing arm.
Therefore, he didn't need a long, drawn-out recovery. And he will not be placed on an innings limit in his comeback.
In the second post of our two-part interview with Skole, he said that with this time off from throwing, he has been able to strengthen other parts of his body and fine-tune his game.
"It was my non-throwing arm, so needless to say, my arm is strong," Skole said. "I have been throwing all summer, working on increasing arm strength. So from that aspect, on the defensive side, I think everything is a lot better than when I started the season because it was pretty much the only thing I could really work on. My arm strength, my footwork at third is twice as good as when I left spring training. I got to work on some things that I needed to work on."
One part of his game that needs a bit of honing is his timing at the plate.
"If there is anything, the only thing that is delayed is the hitting," Skole said. "Honestly, knock on wood, I haven't had any setbacks or any problems with my arm. It feels great. I am swinging without even thinking about my elbow.
"Needless to say, it is one of those things I had to get comfortable with. It took a week or so to get comfortable and finally let it go, knowing that it is healed. The elbow is not an issue right now. I am just itching to play in real games with some fans out there."
One joyful moment for Skole came when all of teammates completed their minor league seasons and joined him at the Nationals facility in Viera, Fla.
Several of them will continue on to Mesa, Ariz., this week as the Mesa Solar Sox get ready for play in the Arizona Fall League. The first game is Monday, Oct. 8.
Skole will be joined at Mesa with Steven Souza Jr., Brian Goodwin, Adrian Nieto and pitchers Sammy Solis, Matt Purke, Robert Benincasa and Richie Mirowski.
"I can't tell you how nice it is to finally see a familiar face and actually be out there sweating, working hard and getting after things with guys I have kind of grown up playing with in this organization," Skole said. "It has just been really comforting to have these guys here.
"I know they are all excited to go out there and get that opportunity. Those guys have been asking and me and Goodwin going back, so we have the experience, just kind of letting them know how it is. That league is a fun league. It really is. I am excited to go back there and I think it will really give me the opportunity to catch up with to what I missed in a short amount of time."
Skole has played third base and first base exclusively. He told me there are no plans for him to work in the outfield or at any other position any time soon. His focus is on playing well and staying upright.
"We haven't discussed anything in the outfield at all," Skole said. "I don't know if that is down the road, but right now my focus is at third as a corner infielder and a left-handed hitter. Right now, that is my main focus - being healthy and getting back on the field and staying healthy and playing.
"Right now, I am going to be the best I can be at those two positions and just swing it. We will see - whatever happens down the road happens. If it is a change, then it is, but if not, then I am ready to go at these positions."
There will also be another familiar face coaching him in Mesa. Triple-A Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich will be coaching the hitters for the Solar Sox this fall.
"Troy will be there," Skole said. "I got to work with him a lot in spring training. He knows his stuff and he will help us out a lot. I am excited to get to work with him a little bit."
Now it is time for Skole to play some games and get to the point where he feels 100 percent confidence that his elbow has healed. This will be crucial for his progress as a player to get a lot of games in for Mesa and then springboard to what the Nationals hope he can accomplish in 2014.