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The Metamorphosis Of Clint Everts
Clint Everts missed a major portion of the 2005 season after successful Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2004 season, a year that saw him go a combined 9-5 with a 2.45 ERA in two stops at low-A Savannah and high-A Brevard County. He didn't return to live action until his season debut with the Gulf Coast League Nationals on June 24th, his first ever action at the rookie level.
When he did come back from the surgery, Everts and the Nationals went the safe route. His velocity was down and he didn't pitch more than three innings in any of his 15 appearances in the Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League. But while some pundits might take a pessimistic look at the slow approach to his reintegration on to the mound, Everts may actually learn to pitch more and pick his spots rather than letting the heater fly and try to overpower would-be hitters.
"When I first started feeling my elbow hurting, it was about two weeks before the Futures Game a couple seasons ago," Everts told CapitolDugout.com in a recent interview. "I really didn't think much of it. I just got used to the soreness, but at the end of the season when I found out about it I was pretty upset."
Sometimes things happen for a reason and perhaps his injury will actually help him in his progression towards a promising Major League career. Mentally, Everts learned a painful but important lesson.
"I learned that it doesn't matter how hard you throw in professional baseball," the former first round pick told us. "If you are up in the zone, you will get hit. So, basically the key is keeping the ball down and keeping the walks down."
While there are some positives to be drawn from his epiphany out of Tommy John surgery, many in the Nationals' organization are hoping that Everts can combine his lessons learned from the injury with the overpowering stuff he had before the surgery.
So how is Everts feeling these days?
"Right now, some days are good and some days are not so good," the rehabbing Everts revealed. "But, overall there are no problems. All I have to do is strengthen it and I should be fine."
"Hopefully, if I can come back healthy from this surgery, I should be back to where I was in high school," Everts further enlightened. "My fast ball should be back in the low 90's. If I can get that strength back, then the curveball and changeup should be back into the low 80's."
Clint Everts and the Nationals are hoping he can return to his prior form, now with the added benefits of his new knowledge of pitching at the professional level. While his new approach on the mound is encouraging, the fact remains that Everts missed a solid year of development time.
As Everts as seen his high school friend Scott Kazmir put up solid numbers at the Major League level with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and many other 2002 draftees make their big league marks already, he is ready to make up for lost time.
"Yes. I will be ready by Spring Training," an eager Everts exclaimed. "Definitely. I know that if I come into Spring Training next year and do well, then I should be starting off in AA. That's what I'm hoping for."
Once at the AA level, Everts and the Nationals realize that he'll be a single call away from the Major Leagues. Both are hoping the Everts' metamorphosis into a more complete pitcher includes a return to his pre-surgery arsenal. Everts believes it will.
"After going through the whole rehab process and getting some innings in the New York Penn league this past season, I feel confident that I will be able to get back to what I was before."
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