Baseball: Strong return – Bridgeman turns in solid starts after arm surgery

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 25, 2015
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John Bridgeman dominated Henrietta hitters, allowing a single hit in five scoreless innings of work Friday night.

For Bridgeman, the showing was more than just a victory for him and the Paradise Panthers. It was a significant milestone that proved he was fully back after missing an entire season following arm surgery.

READY TO FIRE – Paradise’s John Bridgeman has allowed just one run on two hits in 10 innings for the Panthers this season after returning from Tommy John surgery. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It felt good. I had pitched in a tournament but going into Friday I was nervous that I wouldn’t be where I needed,” Bridgeman said.

After helping the Panthers in relief as a freshman, Bridgeman had hoped to become a part of the rotation as a sophomore. Then during a throwing session in December, Bridgeman felt something give in his elbow.

“I heard a pop,” Bridgeman recalled.

The pitcher received the dreaded diagnosis that he had torn the ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent Tommy John surgery, the operation to repair the UCL named after the former major league pitcher who was the first to undergo it.

“It was bad. It hurt more mentally knowing I was going to miss a full year of baseball,” Bridgeman said.

While the Panthers fought their way into the playoffs last spring before falling to eventual state champion Sunnyvale, Bridgeman went through an intensive rehab.

“You do a lot with bands and a lot of leg workouts to get your whole body stronger,” Bridgeman said. “It’s hard and intense. But it’s worth it to get back to where you were.”

Bridgeman actually returned stronger, picking up three to four mph on his fastball.

“I’m actually stronger,” he said.

The showing against Henrietta was Bridgeman’s second impressive start of the season. He held West, ranked No. 7 in 3A, to one run on one hit in five innings, striking out seven.

Bridgeman has allowed one run on two hits in 10 innings of work. He’s struck out 13 and walked five.

“I’ve been impressed. He’s worked hard to get where he is,” said Paradise coach Mike Fehler.

“He came out and threw the ball well against West. That was a real confidence boost. He’s got good velocity and his offspeed stuff really helps his fastball.”

Fehler said Bridgeman is not on a strict pitch count. He threw 82 pitches in the five innings against Henrietta.

“The 82 in five innings is good for us,” Fehler said. “It allowed us to get to the bullpen.

“Mentally that’s the biggest thing to get over. But he’s not worried about [the arm]. I asked him the day after he threw and he said he felt great.”

Bridgeman’s comeback provides depth to a Paradise pitching staff that lost its top arm – senior Dillon Meadows. The TCU-signee underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and is not expected to throw this spring for the Panthers.

“We lost a huge asset and another kid stepped up,” Fehler said.

Bridgeman has also tried to give Meadows, who is playing first base for the Panthers, advice.

“I’ve just told him he’s got to keep up with the therapy,” Bridgeman said. “It’s worth it.”

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