Clemson pitcher Spencer Strider was tossing the ball around going through warmups prior to the start of the Tigers’ first practice of the year last week when his excitement for the start of the season quickly turned into disappointment.
Strider felt perfectly fine when he first started throwing, but he then felt a pop and immediately feared the worse. An MRI confirmed Strider’s fear as it was revealed that the sophomore has a torn UCL, which will require Tommy John surgery.
Strider will miss the entire 2019 season as he goes through the 10-12 month rehab process.
“It’s adversity. It can come at any time. You never know what’s going to happen,” Strider said Friday as he discussed his injury for the first time. “That’s one of those things that’s really out of your control. You try to put yourself in the best position possible to avoid injuries but it’s something you can’t control so it’s tough.”
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Strider was a freshman All-American a season ago, posting a 5-2 record with a 4.76 ERA in 22 appearances, with six starts.
He struck out 70 batters in 51 innings pitched and opponents hit only .215 against him.
“Injuries are part of the game. It’s just one of those things that you have to deal with. Obviously you feel really bad for the guys individually when they have to go through it, but all you can hope for is that the team steps up,” Tigers coach Monte Lee said. “There’s no point in continuing to feel bad about it. It is what it is. We have to deal with it but we also have to move forward. We have a great team, a great group of guys, and we’re going to move forward and try to be as positive as we can.”
Strider was likely going to earn a spot in the weekend rotation had he stayed healthy. Instead, Clemson will spend the next couple of weeks searching for answers.
The Tigers are returning two starters in their weekend rotation in Brooks Crawford and Jacob Hennessy.
“For me right now, Brooks Crawford and Jacob Hennessy, those guys return the most innings so they’re certainly going to be in that conversation of being two of the three guys,” Lee said. “You’ve got to think (freshman) Davis Sharpe is going to be in that mix. Other guys that are potential candidates for those jobs, Justin Wrobleski, true freshman who is very, very talented is going to be in that mix. (Freshman) Jackson Lindley is going to be in that mix. And we could certainly look at other guys in the program who have some experience.”
As for Strider, he is confident that he can come back healthy once the rehab process is complete. Strider is expecting to undergo surgery next week.
Lee and the Tigers will do everything they can to help him through this process.
“One thing’s for sure, the recovery rate, the comeback rate with injuries that he’s dealing with is pretty high. He’s going to be fine. Spencer is a physically strong human being and he’s very diligent about what he does. So I don’t have any doubt in my mind that not only is he going to come back, he’s going to come back better,” Lee said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to be able to see him pitch again probably around this time next year. But there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll come back bigger and better and stronger than ever.”