As he approaches the one-year anniversary of having Tommy John surgery, lefty pitcher Cameron Coffey is throwing well and optimistic about the 2010 season.
The 19-year-old underwent the elbow ligament replacement procedure last March 19th, then in June he was drafted in round 22 by the Orioles.
Most everyone assumed Coffey was headed to Duke to play college baseball, but the O's made him an offer he couldn't refuse. On August 13, Coffey agreed to a reported $990,000 bonus, one of the largest ever given a player taken after the tenth round.
Although it's possible Coffey won't pitch with a team until the short-season clubs start in June, he's been in Sarasota for several weeks and his bullpen sessions are going quite well.
"So far, I've thrown well since I've been here since February first. I've been throwing bullpens three times a week for four or five weeks now. My arm has felt fantastic each time. This week has been the best my arm has ever felt.
"I have not had a single setback since the surgery. That is uncommon, usually there is one or two.
"When I signed, I had just started Dr. Andrews throwing program where you start throwing four months out. Once they saw what I was doing they monitored it and since instructional league they've basically considered me a healthy pitcher like anyone else."
The 6'5" southpaw from Houston Christian High School gained the attention of scouts when his velocity increased in his final high school season.
"It's not as drastic as some make it out to be. My junior year I topped out at 91 and my senior year at 95. I was 86, 87, topping at 91 as a junior then as a senior I topped anywhere from 92 to 95.
"I started working out with a really good personal trainer with knowledge of pitching (before my senior year) and I worked hard with him to get stronger and better velocity."
The Orioles were impressed not only with Coffey's talent but also his character.
"My best secondary pitch is my changeup. It's got some good movement when I locate. That's always been a good pitch for me as a lefty and as a kid my dad didn't want me throwing many curveballs. With the O's some of the coaches have helped me with my slider grip and it's become more of a true slider."
Coffey spent some time this winter working out in the Houston area with Scott Kazmir of the Los Angeles Angels.
He remains confident that his velocity will not only return to its pre-surgery level, but that he may find more heat moving forward.
"I don't think I'll know that until I get into games. They've told me they don't even want velocity to be on my mind. Often times, velocity is the first thing to come back and then the feel of the pitches. I definitely feel I may be one of the lucky few that could gain a few miles per hour after this surgery now that I've changed my mechanics and have a stronger ligament in my elbow."
Coffey says he has made some significant changes to his pitching motion to help avoid future injury. We'll have much more on that in a later post.
Some recent Orioles' 22nd-round draft picks:
2008 - RHP Pat Kantakevich
2007 - RHP Colin Allen
2006 - LHP Chris Salberg
2005 - 1B Paul Chmiel
2004 - IF Rob Marconi
2003 - LHP Zach Dixon