ALTOONA, Pa. – This is the first time in Brandon Waddell’s life that he has been sidelined over an extended period of time with an injury. After two separate trips to the disabled list thanks to a forearm strain, with the second including a PRP injection, Waddell is finally back to being a regular in the Curve rotation and looks to have a strong finish to his shortened 2017 campaign.
“That’s my first time going through it and my first time having that lesson,” Waddell said about going through an injury riddled season. “You have to take something from it. You’re not going to get that time back, so just make the most of it. Now, I’m back again and trying to be productive.”
The forearm issues first arose back in April after his first start of the season in the Curve’s opening series. After some time down, Waddell made his return in May and made seven starts, pitching to a 3.80 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched. That includes two separate starts where he didn’t get out of the first inning, with his outing on June 4th being the last before his second DL stint. He then received the injection with the hopes of returning in 6-8 weeks; however, everything structurally continued to check out fine, so he progressed quicker than normal.
After three rehab appearances, Waddell returned to the Curve on July 31st and has made three appearances. He’s allowed four earned runs in 14.2 innings.
“I’m still getting the feel, but obviously I’m not thinking about that out there,” Waddell said. “It’s not something that crosses your mind; you’re just trying to execute.”
Waddell said that his fastball has felt fine since coming back, and his changeup has been a good pitch for him, also. One of his goals during the rehab process was to enhance usage of his curve ball. During his last two starts, the curve ball has been there, with Pitching Coordinator Justin Meccage saying that it was the best that he’s seen the pitch during Waddell’s start on July 31st.
“Our goal during the rehab process was to get the curveball more involved,” Meccages said. “The plan was to use it more early, but he used it late since he liked where it was at.”
There have been some fatigue issues with Waddell, not allowing him to go deeper into games, but he has also had issues with his pitch count rising quickly. Being more efficient and striving for outs in three pitches or less has always been a goal; however, going out to the mound and coming back into the dugout healthy is priority number one at this point.
Now healthy, Waddell has had some time to reflect on the difficulties of being injured for an extended time this season. Going through the injury the first time was one thing, but to have it happen for a second time was something else.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t tough,” Waddell said. “Everybody wants to be on the field when you take time off. You feel like you’re ready to go. I was all the way back through a build up [after the first time], and to have something like that happen again, it’s nothing we could have controlled. I think it’s something that just happened. Now that I’ve been through it, it’s something that I can take a lot away from.”
The lessons that he learned through the process can translate to much more than baseball. It’s so easy to forget how quickly and easily things in life can change or can be taken away from you, and Waddell became much more aware of that this season. His response when talking about it was very insightful, so here it is in its entirety:
“It allows you to take a step back and gain a perspective on the game,” Wadell said. “When you go through a season, you can easily get caught up in all of it. You can get caught up on all these little things that might change your attitude about everything you do. When you have that time off, you can really see how quickly it can be taken away from you. You can gain a perspective on – you know, what happens on the field is important – but what happens off the field is just as important. That’s a big takeaway that I have. You really see what you have, what you can be grateful for, and how it can be taken away so easily.”
Obviously, it was extremely difficult to be on the sidelines for Waddell; however, the positives that can be taken from it can far outweigh a simple innings count.
You’re not going to get that time back, so just make the most of it,” Wadell said. “Here, I’m back again and trying to be productive.”
He isn’t going to get that time back; however, the Pirates organization will do whatever they can to help make up some of those innings he missed this season while injured. Between Bradenton and Altoona in 2016, Waddell threw a total of 154 innings, including one playoff start. So far this year, he only has 54.1 innings pitched between Altoona and his rehab appearances. After his start this Wednesday in Portland, he should be on schedule to make three more starts in the regular season. That is based on Waddell starting every fifth day; however, plans could change while the Curve actively have six members in their starting rotation. He would then be in line to make the first start in a playoff series, if they get there.
The Pirates could get Waddell more time this fall in the instructional league, and they would have the opportunity to send him to the AFL for even more innings. Altogether, the hope would be that he can add enough innings the rest of this year, that he doesn’t have such an extreme drop off in total innings.
For now, however, he is striving to finish the season strong on a team fighting for a playoff birth. Meccage said that they communicated some minor things to work on in his now short season of work, but the goals remain to pitch good innings and help the team win.
“It’s going to be the same mentality as if I pitched the entire year,” Waddell said. “I’m not trying to do anything extra or going out to prove that I have to do something. I trust myself, and I know other guys have trusted me as well. It’s going about my business as if I haven’t missed any time. We’re going to play some meaningful games down the stretch, and that’s what makes the season fun. You work all season to be in those games. I’m going to enjoy it and finish strong. I want to make quality starts for the team.”
Waddell drew upon his experiences from pitching in the College World Series to come up big in a playoff match-up against Akron last year. He essentially threw seven no-hit innings in the playoff game, with only one hit that should’ve been ruled an error going against him. He was fantastic pitching in the playoffs last year, and the Curve, who current sit tied for first in their division, hope that Waddell can do the same this season. Not only will it help the team, but any additional innings that Waddell can get will be more than beneficial.