Mississippi State pitcher Spencer Price continues to recover from Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. The reliever hopes to be back at the start of the 2019 season. Photo by: Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
October 17, 2018 9:25:12 AM
Editor's Note: This is the third part of a series detailing the progress of Mississippi State pitcher Spencer Price, who suffered a 75-percent tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm and is coming off Tommy John surgery.
STARKVILLE -- The reminder on the whiteboard may or may not be tailored to Spencer Price, but he certainly behaves as one following an edict just for him.
The whiteboard, tucked in the corner of the Shira Complex's weight room, reads: "You don't get strong with weak decisions. Part-time athletes get part-time results."
The prospect of being a full-time athlete isn't as easy when the desired athletics involved is almost a year away, which was the case for Price as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. And yet, it's the only way to get back to the way things were.
The next step in that process was throwing pitches from a mound, a progression from flat-ground throwing and long tossing he was doing earlier in the fall. Price did some bullpen sessions for MSU in its fall practice schedule, which ended with last weekend's intrasquad world series, in which he proved to his new coaching staff his dedication to the rehab process.
"I think it's his attitude more than anything. Some kids come back and they're scared; he doesn't seem to have any fear in him," MSU coach Chris Lemonis told The Dispatch. "It's all about baby steps in that world, and each week we've gotten, for the most part, good reports."
The demeanor Lemonis has noticed is the same one Price has had for months through a workout process that could break the will of any player.
Before a pitcher gets clearance to pick up a baseball after surgery, he goes through weeks of challenging lifting and conditioning, both to tune the parts of the body unaffected by the surgery and to regain strength in those impacted by it. Price described that process to The Dispatch.
Most that came in the spring, while the team was making its run to the College World Series. In that time he was spending three to four days a week in the weight room and doing physical therapy. He hated that he couldn't be with the team, but he didn't mind the weight room giving him somewhere to go and something to take his mind off of what he was missing.
Naturally, given their importance to the pitching motion and the fact that they're not impacted by the surgery, the legs become a focal point. As Price put it: "Just crush lower half." The exercise bike and leg press machine are familiar sights in this phase.
When it comes to upper body, the difference in the surgery side and the non-surgery side becomes apparent.
"Doing a bicep curl for the first time, I thought my elbow was going to rip in half," Price said of his right arm, his pitching arm. "I was on the weakest band they had and only did about three or four of them, but after a couple weeks of doing it, I started getting stronger and now I'm throwing weight around like it's no problem, like I was.
"I don't notice it unless I look in a mirror; my left bicep is noticeably bigger than my right one."
While Price's right arm was still immobilized, he did everything possible with his left arm: weighted pulldowns, tricep extensions, etc. When he was able to move his right arm, he did the same; in the time since then, he's done the same with the right side and gotten the sides evened out.
Price was not one to shy away from the weight room; he enjoyed the challenge, pushing his teammates and having his teammates push him in that environment. Through this process, his time in the weight room gave him a new experience.
"The human body isn't made of steel," Price said.
In the process, the body doesn't have to be made of steel; the will does. He's proven that to his new coaches.
Lemonis said most of Price's work in fall practice was in individualized sessions with pitching coach Scott Foxhall, sessions that he would sit in on from time to time. The hope is to have Price ready for the spring, and they hope a productive winter gets him closer to that. They know Price will do what's required to get there: he's already done just that for nine months, even through pain.
"You watch him do his work -- his weight room, his running, his deal -- and that's the exciting part about him," Lemonis said. "I know he's a tough kid."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson