Looper is back on the mound (PHOTO: M's)
Aaron Looper has been a professional baseball player since he was a 30th round selection of the Seattle Mariners back in 1997. The progression of a pitcher is different then a regular position players because of the amount of patience one must endure if an injury occurs.
Looper, having only 34 days of Major League Baseball, found himself back in Single A baseball this season with the Inland Empire 66ers after having Tommy John Surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
InsidethePark.com: How are you feeling?
Aaron Looper: Not bad. I don’t feel great all the time but it’s getting there. It’s starting to recover a little bit faster. My arm strength is not there yet. It’s a slow process and it is gradually getting better.
ITP: On a scale of one to ten, where do you think you are?
AL: Probably about a six… something like that.
ITP: So far, you have pitched pretty well.
ITP: I have been able to locate for the most part and throw strikes anyways. My movement has been good and I have been able to mix my pitches up a little bit to get guys out. My velocity is not there yet but you don’t have to throw hard to get guys out ya know if you can throw strikes and mix up a little bit. That is what I have been able to do so far.
ITP: Explain to those who have no idea about the injury, exactly what sort of injury was it?
AL: I tore a ligament in my pitching elbow so once that ligament tears the bones that connect at your elbow start rubbing together and that is where the pain comes from They take the ligament out of somewhere else, like in my instance it was my forearm where they take a ligament you don’t need, they drill two holes in each bone making a figure eight with the ligament.
ITP: Did you know right away?
AL: No. For about a week, my arm did not feel very good.… it was hurting. The last inning I threw, every pitch hurt really bad. It felt like somebody was stabbing me right when I would release the ball. It did not hurt between pitches. I would always finish the inning. After the seventh inning, every pitch was like that during this game, a really sharp pain. I got in the dugout and I could not lift my arm up to get my jacket on. I told the trainer that I think something is messed up.
ITP: Has it been discouraging having been in Tacoma last year and rated pretty highly now being down here starting over?
AL: Yeah, a little bit. It was not a good time for me to get hurt. I am 28 years old, it was discouraging. The best and hardest part about surgery and coming back was that everything is not normal yet. You see your buddies pitching in the biglLeagues or just playing whatever and it is somewhat discouraging. I would say that is the hardest part.
The rehab is about not being yourself whenever you go out there to pitch. It is a kind of a to struggle everytime. Also, I love playing with these guys, cool guys but you see all the guys you came up with in the big leagues. That is a little discouraging.
ITP: You already have some buddies playing in the majors?
AL: Yeah, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton and a lot of guys in Triple-A.
ITP: How do you think this will affect your career?
AL: I don’t know. I think I have developed a better change-up since surgery. So if there is anything to take that is positive , I have a better third pitch. It has shortened my career already by two years already. I have to wait and see. I try to not worry about the future to much because you forget about the present.
ITP: Have any of the 66ers picked your brain about what it is like in the big leagues?
AL: Not too much. Not really.
ITP: Now you have been down here a little bit, how do you see the team progressing?
AL: We have a really good ballclub. I saw the record before I got here and I did not think we were very good but we have been playing lights out since. I have not seen a better team in the league.
ITP: The Class A All-Star Game is next month in Carolina, who do you see making it from this team?
AL: There is a ton of guys who could make it like Jonesy, Balentein. There are a lot of guys hitting over .300. You can take your pick from those guys. Rogelstad. The pitchers are pitching good. There could be 5 or 6 All-Stars.
Angel Almeida covers the Inland Empire 66ers for InsidethePark.com and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org