In 2009, with Bowie, Brandon Erbe was limited to 14 starts due to shoulder problems. This year he had to deal with more shoulder issues. He made 14 starts for Triple-A Norfolk.
He would pitch just once after June 20th, throwing a couple of innings on July 24 in an injury-rehab outing with Aberdeen.
This time, the problem led him to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum on August 13th. Angels’ physician Dr. Lewis Yocum performed the procedure.
“It was the same injury (this season), but different kind of symptoms, though. That was, I guess, kind of the beginning phase of it. I came back and felt great up until probably mid way through 2010,” the 22-year-old Erbe said.
“The surgery went pretty well. Once they got in there it wasn’t as bad as initially thought. It was something they needed to fix, I was worried it was going to crop up every year at some point and I might have to get shut down. I didn’t want to go every year trying to make it through the year.”
Erbe said the first few days after the surgery may have been tough mentally, but now he’s in very good spirits.
“The first week after the surgery your arm is dead with no muscles and everything starts to atrophy. After a couple of weeks, you are out of the sling and brushing your teeth again. You can put a shirt on. You can lift your arm, little things like that you have to re-learn.”
After going 5-3, 2.34 in 2009 for Bowie, the O’s third-round pick from Baltimore’s McDonogh High in 2005, was winless this past summer at Norfolk when he went 0-10, 5.73.
“As of right now, it’s actually strange because I feel almost as normal as I did before the surgery. My everyday normal activities, everything feels completely normal.
“I haven’t really tried to push it and am taking the rather conservative route of not working out my upper body and I won’t do too much, too quickly.
“I have another four weeks of strengthening and rehabilitation before I can start actually working out and start to throw.”
Erbe and club officials fully expect him to return to the mound in 2011 although it may not be in April and it could take a while before he feels completely back to his previous form on the hill.
“I had the surgery on August 13th and, if everything goes well, I should be able to throw on December 13th. That would probably be just something like 20 throws at 40 feet, nothing remotely close to the progression a healthy player would do. But that’s about the time some players start throwing. My progression will be slower.
“If everything progresses and there are not setbacks, I should be right on line with a spring training schedule, although I won’t jump into games when everyone else will. I’ll still be doing bullpen work,” Erbe added.
Erbe followed Dr. Yocum’s rehab plan for the first four to six weeks after the procedure and now is under the care of O’s orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens. He has also been working with physical therapists.
He is not ruling out being ready by Opening Day but also realizes that could be overly ambitious.
“It’s good to have a goal, I’d like to pitch in games as soon as possible. But what type of games, they could be extended spring games. It depends how the throwing progression goes.
“The throwing program runs about four months. That would put me right about when the season is ready to start. Along with a throwing program, as a starter you have to build up your innings and pitches.
“I am hoping for an April or May kind of time frame. Kind of going off a timeline what past players have done. The timing of the surgery makes it hopefully that I come back with plenty of season left.”
He also knows that pitching as well as he did with Bowie in 2009 could take quite a while.
“I am not expecting to be what I consider myself as a pitcher right off the bat. But hopefully I’ve left myself enough time to get there during the season. There is time hopefully to get back to my form not that deep into the season. There is general optimism, but you have to understand the reality of the situation.”
While he made improvements and changes to his pitching motion and mechanics in recent years, Erbe believes those mechanics did contribute to his shoulder pain. Now he wants to work on that, make some changes and return with smoother mechanics.
“Anytime you have shoulder problems especially, it usually stems from something mechanical. There have been huge repairs made to my delivery over the past two or three years and a lot of it helped tremendously but it never quite got to the point where myself and the Orioles staff would like it to be.”
Coming soon: Erbe talks more about changing his pitching mechanics and his recovery from surgery.