October 23, 2013 10:20:54 AM
STARKVILLE -- All signs were positive from Brandon Woodruff's first pitching session of the fall to live batters.
The junior right-hander threw 25 pitches (two- and four-seam fastballs and changeups) to veteran Mississippi State batters, including senior first baseman Wes Rea, in a simulated inning before the scheduled intra-squad scrimmage.
"It felt good," Woodruff said Tuesday. "I finally got a (radar) gun in my bullpen, and today I wanted (the radar gun) on me there. It just felt loose and felt it was coming out really good."
Radar guns recorded Woodruff's fastball at 91-93 mph. He also hit 96 and registered 80-84 mph on his changeup. Woodruff has worked with MSU associate head coach/pitching coach Butch Thompson for the past two weeks in the bullpen.
"He was really good, very positive, and when I was talking to him during the scrimmage he felt very good about it," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He threw a lot of strikes and didn't have a lot of big misses, so it was very encouraging. In fact, some of our hitters like Wes Rea came up to me and said, 'Hey coach, he's really close to being who we think he's going to be.' "
The only batted ball in the session play was a lazy ground ball near the hole at shortstop. Woodruff said he hoped to throw "a couple more times" before the end of the fall season.
"With any pitcher that is coming back off a injury, the day of is usually the best day and the next day you see how much soreness, but he's in a really good place," Cohen said. "I think there's a lot of peace in knowing this was the issue, and we've isolated it and he's rehabbing with weights for two hours during our scrimmage."
Woodruff struggled with shoulder problems last season and had to have season-ending surgery performed by Dr. Rusty Linton, the team surgeon in Columbus, after feeling tenderness in the elbow joint following a start against Ole Miss in Pearl. He was 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in 18 2/3 innings in eight games.
Woodruff, a Wheeler native who was a fifth-round draft pick out of high school by the Texas Rangers in 2011, told The Dispatch last April it was "the first injury situation I had to deal with in my career." The injury prevented him from playing this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
"I felt like there was more in the tank," Woodruff said. "I just have to get my arm conditioned more. It's only 25 pitches, so I need to be able to do that for 100 pitches. There's still a lot of improvement and things to work on."
Woodruff is expected to compete for one of three weekend starter roles this season.
Woodruff and classmate Jacob Lindgren turned down offers of more than $500,000 from professional franchises to attend MSU.
"I think he's very excited for Bulldog nation to Brandon Woodruff at his best," Cohen said. "I think that's a real possibility out there."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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