BRADENTON, Fla. – A.J. Schugel is ready to go to Indianapolis for the next step in his rehab. However, he’s not close to returning to Pittsburgh just yet.
Yesterday, Pirates’ director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk told reporters in Pittsburgh, including our Alan Saunders, that Schugel will go through a buildup similar to what he would do during Spring Training. When I talked to Schugel after his latest rehab outing last night, he said it’s still early in that timeframe.
“I’m still probably towards the beginning, if you put it that way,” Schugel said of the Spring Training comparison. “Really my second time in the game. Most importantly, the arm is feeling good. I think everything else will start falling in place after that with the reps. I’m happy with the first two. There’s definitely more in the tank, but I’m starting to get the feel back.”
Schugel threw two games with Bradenton, and is expected to leave for Indianapolis to continue his rehab tomorrow or Friday, although there is a chance he could get one more game in Bradenton, depending on how the schedule plays out. Prior to his games in Bradenton, he had three bullpen sessions and a few simulated games, amounting to about five or six sessions before he started his official rehab.
The shoulder injury that kept Schugel down is similar to what he experienced in 2016, when he was shut down at the end of the year due to inflammation in the right shoulder. There wasn’t any structural damage at the time, and no surgery was needed. The same approach was taken this time around, with rest being the recovery plan.
“[I’m] feeling better,’ Schugel said of the shoulder. “I think it still has its days. Still trying to work through some of those days. But all-in-all it’s definitely a lot better than what it was. I think the more times on the mound, the better it will get. … We all want to make sure that’s where it needs to be before any decision is made.”
Schugel said that his arm is in a good place now, and that he expects to be doing well once he gets through the process of building up his arm during his rehab assignment. He said his pitches are coming along well, but he needs to improve them to get them ready for the majors, making them “crisper and sharper” during his rehab work.
“I don’t think it’s where it would need to be, but it’s definitely on its way,” Schugel said of his pitches.
The Pirates are off to a hot start in Pittsburgh, going 12-6 through Wednesday, and Schugel has taken notice, following along from down in Bradenton.
“That’s awesome,” Schugel said of the record. “Everyone can say what they want, but the guys in there know how good that team is. Maybe they can do something special.”
One of the big weaknesses on the team has been the bullpen. Schugel has done well in his time with the Pirates the last two years, including a 1.97 ERA and a 4.23 xFIP last year, and a 3.63 ERA and 3.72 xFIP in 2016. He should get a spot in the bullpen when he’s healthy, and he’s hoping that is how things will play out.
“I hope that’s the case, sooner, rather than later,” Schugel said. “We’ll see where we go once I get to Indy. See how things go up there, and hopefully join them pretty soon.”