The process of a pitcher moving relief to a starting role requires a lot of arm stretching leading into the season.
For Pittsfield senior Ryan Grande, that stretching helped ease his transition into the starting rotation and allowed him to bounce back from an injury that limited him last season.
Grande suffered from tight hip flexors, a condition that flared up during golf his junior year. The injury restricted his golf swing, and made pitching very uncomfortable in the spring.
"I had it for about a year, tight hip flexors," he said. "I was out for a third of the baseball season, and I wasn't prepared the way I wanted to be. I was mainly a closer because I didn't have the stamina to be a starter."
Heading into this season, Grande dedicated himself to returning to 100 percent. He went to physical therapy sessions twice a week at Berkshire Physical Therapy, learning how to alleviate the tightness.
"It was really hard to turn and follow through. I couldn't run, and when pitching, it was hard to be explosive," he said. "I learned stretches to do every night and I had to stay off [activities] for a month. It really helped me out."
In addition to physical therapy, Grande credits pitching sessions with Williams pitching coach Mike Gladu for getting him ready to join the Generals' starting rotation.
As a closer, Grande relied mainly on his fastball, but Gladu helped him expand his repertoire to include a change-up and a curveball.
Grande appears to be fully healthy, throwing a two-hit shutout and striking out 10 to lead Pittsfield to a mercy-rule victory over Agawam on Tuesday at Clapp Park.
Pittsfield coach Bob Moynihan said Grande's early-season success is a testament to the work he put in to return to full strength.
"Last year, the number of pitches and his innings were limited," he said. "He's the kind of kid who works through the winter, throwing all winter, and he got stiffness before the season. Last season, the rigors of throwing every day were too much, but he's determined and wanted to be out there."
Moynihan said Grande's velocity is returning, reaching the mid-to-upper 80s in mph, and he expects it to increase as the season progresses and the weather gets warmer.
For Grande, the goal of rehab was to get back to full strength, help his team win and to pitch in college. Grande is committed to play baseball at MCLA next season, and his victory yesterday got Pittsfield over the .500 mark at 4-3.
"I always knew I had the talent, but it was about wanting to put the time and effort in [to recover]," he said. "We want to start to get into a winning streak. Winning brings a lot of momentum and we have two more games this week. If we can keep doing what we're doing, we'll be fine."
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