Jay Voss climbed the rankings after a breakout season in 2011. A move to the rotation yielded 12 wins, a 3.56 ERA and a solid 1.16 WHIP. Heading into the 2012 season with high hopes, Voss' road to the show took a minor detour, as he was shutdown with a flexor-pronator injury.
Over the next few months, Jay Voss has agreed to participate in a three-part series with TigsTown, documenting his return to the mound. As the series unfolds we look forward to giving you the reader an inside look at Jay's journey.
TigsTown: You had a bit of a breakout year in 2011. Talk to me about what the season meant to you and what you learned.
Jay Voss: The 2011 season was great for me. I learned so much about how to pitch and manage a game, and also how to compete when you are having an off day. Each of my pitches improved in quality and consistency as the year went along. The season in general meant a lot to me because it was probably going to be the last season my Dad could come and watch me pitch. I pitched that season for my family and worked hard to make them proud. They are my support system, and they pushed me through it. I learned a lot in 2011 that will aid me the rest of my career.
TigsTown: You moved from the bullpen to the rotation that season, logging more than forty innings over your previous career high. Looking back, do you feel that the increase in innings perhaps caused the injury?
Voss: I did have a substantial workload increase in 2011, but I do not believe that had anything to do with my injury. I have always pitched a ton of innings since I can remember. I enjoyed the workload. I got so much stronger physically and mentally. I was in great shape to handle it. I'm one of those old school approach guys. If my High School or College coach tried to talk about saving my arm for later in the season I fought them on it. If my arm felt good to go I was going to pitch. You never know with these injuries. Tommy John Surgery is too common anymore. I know one thing; I don't look back on any baseball experience and wish to change a thing. I might not be where I am right now without competing so hard all those years and taking the ball in big games. Dr. Andrews told me that he thought the initial injury took place when I was an amateur and I've pitched through the problem for years now. He said that is the case a lot of times. The elbow just finally couldn't take it anymore.
TigsTown: You looked fine and everything appeared to be business as usual when I observed you during spring training. Did you notice anything different or out of the ordinary this spring?
Voss: I wasn't alarmed of anything coming into spring training and the start of the season. My arm felt fine. One thing that was very noticeable for me is I didn't have the snap and life on my pitches that I had last season. It usually comes for me around the middle of spring training. This year even in my first month in Erie it was still not there. My control and command were fine. It was frustrating.
TigsTown: Talk to me about the injury itself; what do you recall from the night that you were removed from the game?
Voss: The night when it happened was not good. I threw a fastball to get the last out of the inning and I felt a severe stretching feeling. I tried to warm up for the next inning and I just couldn't do it. I alerted our trainer Chris McDonald and he pulled me out of the game and took me right in for treatment and tests.
TigsTown: Following the injury, you were sent to Lakeland and eventually put on a rehab program. What activities both on and off the field did they have you do during that stage?
Voss: When we decided to do the surgery I had mixed emotions. I have never sat out a season before. However, I knew that it had to be done to save my career. The rehab is strenuous; strength and conditioning six days per week along with therapeutic exercises for the elbow and shoulder. It's challenging because you know you have a long road ahead. I believe I will be stronger coming out of this because of the work I'm putting in each day. Our staff is so good at what they do. I also have so many teammates who have had the procedure that I can turn to for advice.
TigsTown: If you could, talk to me about the surgery. What exactly took place?
Voss: For the actual surgery, Dr. Andrews removed part of a thick tendon from my hamstring and used it to create a new stronger ligament in my elbow. It is crazy to think about it. It feels normal now three months later though. It is incredible the things they can do to save careers.
TigsTown: Earlier, we touched on some of the rehab. What are you currently focusing on, as you work your way back?
Voss: Right now we are focusing on strength and conditioning and range of motion, to be sure I am in prime condition to come back and pitch. I will begin a throwing regimen soon with the goal of being 100% at the start of the 2013 season. I really want to build up my body to be stronger and more durable which starts with the legs and core. That is the key in the rehab is total body strength. Not just rehabbing your elbow, just becoming stronger and tougher, both physically and mentally.
Next Up: In the second installment, we will document and discuss Voss' return to the field, baseball activities and any setbacks that may occur.
James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown. Also, be sure to follow Tigers prospect Jay Voss on twitter @Jay_Voss.