Bush aims to regain pitching form he had before arm injury

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McClatchy Tribune
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
— Any athlete will tell you that there’s never a good time to suffer a serious injury.

But the timing of Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Dave Bush’s arm injury last season was particularly brutal, for both pitcher and club.

Before being struck by a line drive off the bat of Florida’s Hanley Ramirez on June 4, Bush was well into the best stretch of his big-league career. Going back to the start of June 2008, Bush had compiled an 11-5 record and 3.52 ERA over a span of 30 starts.

And that didn’t include his winning performance in Game 3 of the ’08 National League Division Series against Philadelphia—still the Brewers’ only postseason victory since 1982.

“A whole bunch of things were going right,” said Bush, who also flirted with a pair of no-hitters during that period.

“Over that stretch, it was probably the best I pitched over my career. I felt like I had finally gotten over some of the inconsistencies I had during my career and was pitching well.”

That trend changed when Ramirez smoked the first-inning liner off Bush’s pitching arm. The gritty Maine native refused to come out of that game and attempted to remain in the rotation, but tests finally revealed a micro-tear of the triceps muscle.

A lot of pitchers would have shut

it down for the rest of the season at that point. But with right-hander Jeff Suppan later joining him on the disabled list with an oblique strain and a series of fill-ins suffering one pratfall after

another, Bush rushed through a rehabilitation program and returned to action.

“There wasn’t really another option,” said Bush, who will make his second start of the season today against Chicago at Wrigley Field. “I did what I thought I had to do. I went out there and pitched.”

It quickly became obvious that it wasn’t the pre-injury Dave Bush. In seven starts after coming off the DL, he went 2-5 with an 8.10 ERA, badly skewing his final numbers (5-9, 6.38) for the season.

Looking back, Bush does not regret returning to the mound, but he acknowledges the consequences.

“My option was to sit and watch other people try to do it or go out and pitch at less than 100 percent but knowing it’s all I had at the time,” Bush said. “I was willing to do that and take the consequences.

“That wasn’t myself. If that was myself, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have won a job (in spring training). It was a difficult process. I rushed my rehab twice.

“I’m not sure that got me anywhere in the end. I knew it was going to hurt my stats and probably cost me a little bit of money. You look at my numbers, I had a terrible year.”

Bush, 30, referred to the fact he received only a modest raise from $4 million to $4.215 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. Another consequence was coming to spring training and having to win back his job in the starting rotation.

It wasn’t until the final week of camp that manager Ken Macha officially anointed Bush as the No. 4 starter.

“It’s always stressful competing for a job,” Bush said. “I understood the situation I was in. I felt like given the way I pitched in the spring, I showed them I was healthy if they were worried about that. If I still needed to do more than that, I felt like I had a pretty good spring.”

Bush was pleased with the way he threw the ball in his first start Friday against

St. Louis. He had allowed just one run through 5 2/3 innings when Matt Holliday smacked a two-run homer, prompting Macha to lift Bush.

Bush was in line for the victory until closer Trevor Hoffman surrendered a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha with two outs in the top of the ninth. But Bush had good velocity, mixed pitches well and kept the Cardinals in check until the Holliday homer.

“My arm felt good,” said Bush. “Everything felt normal.”

Normal is a good thing after what Bush went through last season. Bush’s primary goal is to return to the consistency he displayed before being struck by that line drive.

“There’s nothing I can do to change what happened or redo that part of my career,” Bush said. “I didn’t have any illusions that I was going to go through my career without any stress, but that was tough.

“What I can do is keep moving forward and try to do the best I can. I don’t need any extra motivation to go out and pitch. I just try to focus on the task at hand.”

Last updated: 1:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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