Nearly two years removed from season-ending Tommy John surgery that interrupted his very promising rookie season, Josh Outman is back on the mound for the Oakland Athletics in spring training and it appears he is ready to pick up right where he left off.
In his first live action during a scrimmage game against his own teammates, Outman looked like his old self.
While limited to only 20 pitches during the intrasquad game, Outman allowed only one hit on a Coco Crisp single up the middle. Pitching at only a 90 percent exertion level, Outman was reaching 92 MPH on the radar gun.
More importantly though, he is pitching completely pain-free.
"After everything he's been through, it's good to see him do that," A's manager Bob Geren said. "His velocity was pretty good, and he had a pretty good changeup."
During his rookie season in 2009, Outman posted a 4-1 record with a 3.48 ERA and a 7.1 K/9 ratio in 12 starts. This season, Outman is trying to earn the fifth starter spot in the Oakland A's extremely talented rotation.
Outman's primary competition this spring, Rich Harden, has already suffered a setback, giving Outman an increasing edge in the competition.
While his velocity is down a little from where he was in 2009, Outman still is proving to be a very effective pitcher.
If both emerge healthy, who should be the A's fifth starter?
"If I can stay in the low 90s, that's all I can really ask for," Outman said.
"Two years [since surgery] will be June, and they say that's when your velocity comes back. Hopefully, by after the All-Star break, I can get back into the middle/upper 90s where I was able to get to.
"Even if I stay 90 to 93 right now, I can pitch with that and I can get people out with that. I'm happy."
Unlike Harden, Outman has felt great all spring while showing off his abilities with his surgically repaired elbow.
"I feel pretty comfortable with my elbow [being] recovered and I'm ready to compete in games," Outman said.
"I'm not going to say I wasn't a little nervous, just getting back out there and facing major league hitters again. As far as worrying about my health, I don't have any issue with that."
If both Harden and Outman emerge from spring training healthy, the A's will have six major league starters they can add to the roster (with Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer also major league quality options).
Perhaps the only thing that didn't look the Josh Outman of 2009—his socks.
The clubhouse attendant forgot to have Outman's preferred green stirrups available to him, prompting Outman to wear yellow knee-high socks with the green stir-up stripe dyed into the sock.
"I hadn't done this in so long that they forgot to get me stirrups," he said.
"That's why I'm wearing these Little League socks."