Stoneburner Still Has A Good Feeling

Stoneburner hasn't had an arm injury

Right-hander Graham Stoneburner has been besieged by injuries over the past two years, including a nerve injury in his neck in 2011 and a nagging groin injury last year that limited him to just 45 1/3 innings with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. Neither of them were arm injuries, however, and that gives him a good feeling about bouncing back in 2013.

It's never a good sign though when you battle an injury all year long like Stoneburner did in 2011 and then fall victim to an injury in your very first start of the season the following year.

"It was pretty frustrating as a whole," he admitted. "My first start of the year I went down with a groin injury and coming off of 2011 where I had injuries throughout the year I kind of wanted to get back on my feet and had high expectations for myself, and then in the first start of the year I got hurt and had to go on the DL so it was extremely frustrating.

"I got my groin all healed up and I thought that was behind me and then it was like my third or fourth start back I pulled my groin again. That was extremely frustrating to put in all of that hard work to try and get better and prevent an injury like that from happening again, and to have the same thing happen set me back.

"I did the rehab process from there and got back in game action, but it was slow to get back into the groove of things so it wasn't really until the end of the year that I was pitching like I felt I needed to."

He went 3-0 with a 5.02 ERA for the Trenton Thunder last year but that was in only twenty appearances, sixteen of which were out of the bullpen. That constant back and forth between the training room and the mound though does have a sliver of a silver lining.

"I've been fortunate enough to not injure my arm but I've had some frustrating injuries and it's probably even more frustrating because both times I got injured it was right when I started to feel good and had high expectations for myself," he said.

"Last year with the groin, I view it as a fluke injury that set me back when I was just hitting my groove and started feeling really good and getting into the rhythm of pitching. To have an injury that I never would have considered having, to have that set me back was extremely frustrating."

Adding to his frustration level is the fact that despite not injuring his arm in his professional career his velocity still has taken a hit from the continuous trips to the disabled list.

Once able to sit in the 91-93 mph range as a starting pitcher, his velocity dipped all the way down to the 88-91 mph range a year ago and it's solely because he has not been able to stay on the mound long enough to build up his arm strength over the past two seasons.

"The past two years I've definitely loss some velo on my fastball," he admitted. "Towards the end of last year my velocity started to build. It came back in that last month and a half so it left me on an encouraging note so I hope that continues. If I stay healthy hopefully the arm strength comes back."

He shifted to the bullpen upon his second comeback bid last year and hidden behind his rather gaudy 6.75 ERA as a reliever was some real progress. He had a 3.75 ERA over his final fourteen relief appearances as a reliever.

It still remains to be seen if that will be his role going forward, however, since his transition to the bullpen was probably more of a designed plan just to get him some innings last year and some consistent appearances to end the season.

"I have no idea," he said of his role for 2013. "All I was told [last year] when I was coming back from my second groin injury was that they were going to put me in the bullpen. I don't know what their plans are for me this year.

"If they want me to continue to be in the bullpen, be a starter, or be a long-relief guy, I don't know. I'll just head down to Spring Training in the best shape that I can and see what kind of plans they have for me."

When he was pitching injury free a couple of years ago he did show a plus fastball in shorter relief stints, sitting anywhere from 92-95 mph.

The loss development time though has zapped that power for now and he has had some negative effects on his still developing slider, but he can't even think about that right now. First and foremost he knows he has to stay on the mound if he's to get any work done at all.

"I just want to give myself the best chance to be successful and to do that, number one, I have to be pitching so that means staying healthy. I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure I'm out on the field and not on the DL.

"It's been extremely frustrating and I've got all of that behind me, I hope, so I can just focus on pitching and getting guys out, and hopefully pick up where I left off when I was injury-free.

"That's what I'm hoping for in 2013 and we'll see how it goes. I still have a good feeling about it," he concluded.

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