Pitching without pain
CMU's Davis back at full strength after labrum tear
As a freshman, Kyle Davis made an immediate impact.
The right-handed pitcher threw important innings for the 2009 Colorado Mesa baseball team, including three innings of relief in the Mavericks’ only appearance in the NCAA Division II World Series.
Davis earned a starting role the next season, going 7-0 with a 5.16 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 68 innings despite pain in his pitching shoulder.
That pain was a roughly 30-degree labrum tear high in his right shoulder, CMU head athletic trainer Josh Fullmer said.
The labrum is a ring of cartilage around the shoulder head. Labrum tears are most common in baseball pitchers, swimmers and football players, Fullmer said.
“There are two ways to tear your labrum,” Fullmer said. “The first one is with a shoulder dislocation. Usually with pitchers, it’s an overuse thing. It starts to give away over time and starts to tear.”
Because it wasn’t a complete tear, Fullmer had Davis rehabilitate the injury in the offseason.
“A lot of time with athletes, we’ll try a conservative treatment plan, where they do a lot of rehab,” Fullmer said. “It works pretty well with football players, where they don’t put so much pressure on that area.
“If that doesn’t work, we’ll try the surgical option. With Kyle, we did the same thing. We tried the non-surgical approach first. It didn’t work as well as we would’ve liked, so he went under the knife to get it taken care of.”
Davis tried pitching in the spring of 2011, but the preseason All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pitcher continued to experience discomfort and ended up having surgery.
“It sucked, but the doctor I went to has great results, so I was pretty positive about it,” Davis said.
Fullmer said it usually takes nine to 10 months to recover from surgery and another six to eight months for a pitcher to regain his velocity.
Davis missed close to 18 months with the injury. He has four small scars on his shoulder.
“Rehab took forever,” Davis said. “I had four months off when I came out (and started) throwing. I felt great, but as soon as I got on the mound it was straight back downhill (with pain). It took about another six months before I felt good on the mound. It wasn’t until this fall I felt good.
“The doctor told me if it kept up feeling good I’d be playing by the start of last season (2012).”
It didn’t work out that way.
“I think I tried to push it and set it back,” Davis said.
He still attended home games and practice on a daily basis last season, but he didn’t just sit around and watch.
“I learned how to throw left-handed, or I tried to learn,” Davis said. “I could at least do something, shag BP.
“I had nothing else to do, I’d rather be out here. Not being on the field was really rough.”
Mesa relief pitcher Garrett Carpenter, who missed most of two seasons with Tommy John surgery, understands what Davis went through with a long rehabilitation.
“It’s good to see him pitching again,” Carpenter said. “I’m glad to have him back.
“I’m sure he got a lot from his doctor. He did good on his physical training and rehab.”
The CMU coach staff worked on adjusting his pitching mechanics, which is often the cause of a labrum tear, Fullmer said.
“He had an awkward motion when he first got here, but we’ve been trying to work through that,” CMU pitching coach Jeff Rodgers said. “He’s got a lot of ability. He’s got a quick arm, which has always saved him. He’s worked on getting his arm angle up more and relying more on his lower half of his body. That’s the best way to describe it.”
Davis is back on the mound this spring and is finally pitching without pain.
“It’s going good,” Davis said. “Everything feels well. It’s hard to get back into the starting rotation. We have a lot of good starting pitchers. I’m getting my chances.”
Davis made his first appearance in relief against Montana State-Billings the second weekend series of the season back in February.
He’s made seven appearances thus far, including five starts. Davis (5-0) went six innings, throwing 112 pitches against CSU-Pueblo a week ago Sunday. He limited the ThunderWolves to one run on four hits and struck out seven, earning him the RMAC pitcher of the week award.
“I don’t want to overuse him at this point,” Rodgers said. “I think his strength is getting there, but I’m not sure he’s at full strength. He’s pretty dang close.”