The list of pitchers who have fully recovered from Tommy John surgery grows longer every year. It contains the famous (Chris Carpenter, John Lackey, Stephen Strasburg) as well as those you haven’t heard of (at least, not yet).
Ethan Carter, who won the state Group AAA championship game for Menchville in 2009, hopes to join that list. He underwent the procedure, which repairs the elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament, in May. Now, nearly eight months later, he’s plotting his return.
“I feel real good about it,” Carter said. “I can’t even count on two hands the number of friends who play baseball who have had the surgery. That really got me through some of the days when I didn’t feel great.
“I have a friend at South Carolina (Nolan Belcher) who told me he had days that were just unbearable. But he kept at it, and he ended up being the Friday night (starting pitcher for the Gamecocks) a year later. Everybody always says, better the elbow than the shoulder. Talking with guys who have had it done has really given me encouragement to stay on it the way I have.”
Another reason for optimism: Carter’s surgery was done by James Andrews, considered by many to be the best orthopedic surgeon in the nation.
Carter hopes to be fully recovered by March. For now, he’s working at the Virginia Baseball Academy in Hampton. He said he’s throwing off the mound at 75-percent velocity, full force off it from 120 feet.
Carter, who began his college career at South Carolina before transferring to Louisburg (N.C.) College and the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, is hoping to hook on with a minor-league team this spring. He’s had discussions with two independent teams, the River City Rascals in O’Fallon, Mo., and the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers.
“Nothing is set in stone,” he said. “I want to wait until I’m 100 percent or really close to it before I’m committed to play for any team. I want to go do some minor-league tryouts before I’m committed.”
In his four-year college career — two at Division I, one at D-II and one at a junior college — Carter won 22 of 26 decisions with an earned-run average of 2.06.