By Mike DeSanto
Injuries are a common occurrence in sports, and the St. Bonaventure University baseball team’s pitching staff has faced a pair of injuries since the beginning of the season.
Originally pegged to be the number one and three starters, respectively, juniors Brandon Schlimm and Nate Grant have missed chunks of the season due to injuries which have prevented them from even throwing a ball.
The Bonnies’ head coach, Larry Sudbrook, explained each pitchers injury and how they happened. Schlimm, who initially started the year struggling by allowing 29 runs in his first four starts, was shut down after his March 17 start against Davidson due to issues with his throwing arm.
“Brandon had some inflammation in his forearm and in his elbow,” Schlimm said. “He tried to pitch through it and usually inflammation doesn’t respond to that; inflammation is a stubborn thing. It caused him, this spring, to lose velocity quickly, and he didn’t want to follow through and be down in the zone because it hurt more. So he did not get off to the start we expected out of a guy that was all-conference last year as a sophomore.”
Sudbrook also talked about how, despite the injury, the tests on Schlimm’s arm provided some good news.
“When they took the MRI, we were fearful of UCL [damage] where he would have Tommy John Surgery,” Sudbrook said. “It turned out there is no damage, it was just inflammation, so once he rested it for a couple of weeks ,we started the process of: you’ve got to start him back over.”
Grant went down before the Bonnies’ initial Florida trip to open the year, as an accident with one of his own teammates sidelined him.
“Nate, in his lasting outing in Butler [Hall] before we headed to Florida, he was scheduled to go to 100 pitches that day and he was somewhere in the low 90’s,” Sudbrook said. “[He] threw a pitch down the middle that [junior] Aaron Phillips squared up and hit a 94 mph line drive back at Nate’s stomach. Nate instinctively put his hands in front of the ball, and of course it didn’t hit his glove, it drilled on his pointer finger, which is one of the fingers that has to stay on the baseball to be able to throw it.”
Sudbrook said Grant’s finger, located on his throwing hand, was “shattered in six places” and required surgery to put it back together.
Unlike Grant, who has yet to return, Schlimm made his comeback on April 11 against Niagara, throwing one inning and allowing no runs and two hits.
“He threw [April 11], one inning, at Niagara, only twenty pitches and he was 90-91,” Sudbrook said. “Then we had him take a bullpen on Friday at Wagner and then had him throw again [April 18] and he went two-and-two-thirds innings, 39 pitches, and he was 90-91, [and] hit some 92’s. So his velocity is coming back and he actually threw, out of his 39 pitches, 32 were strikes.”
While he has yet to take the mound again, Sudbrook said Grant has made progress towards getting back, though his role if or when he returns is still undecided.
“He’s now tossing out to 120 feet and he’s actually going to take a flat ground bullpen today (April 19),” Sudbrook said. “So we would have him back, probably to pitch, [but] the question is going to be where are we at in the conference race to go to the postseason. If you’re in it, maybe you want to pitch him, [but] if you are not in it, maybe you want to save him for a redshirt year.”
Sudbrook said he and pitching coach B.J. Salerno hope to work Schlimm back into the starter role they originally tabbed him to be in as the season progresses. But if they do use Grant it will be out of the bullpen, as freshman Casey Vincent has established himself in the rotation and they will not be able to work Grant up to the needed pitch count.
Schlimm and Grant could not be reached to comment.
The Bonnies will next play in a three-game series against George Mason, lasting from Friday to Sunday, with Friday’s first pitch set at 3 p.m. Schlimm is expected to start one of the three games.