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Tuesday, June 25
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Monar looks to pitch after early season injury

IU-Penn State Baseball

At this point in the 2010 season, the IU baseball team hoped to have its anticipated preseason pitching ace on the mound, winning games and leading an undermanned pitching staff.

Instead, sophomore Blake Monar hasn’t started on the rubber since the season’s first game in February at San Diego due to a strained rotator cuff. He’s played sparingly since as a pinch hitter for the Hoosiers.

But now, the Hoosiers (15-15, 2-4) appear to be edging closer to getting Monar, a member of last season’s Big Ten All-Freshman Team, back on the mound just when they need him most. The Rockport, Ind., native threw his first competitive pitches since the injury in San Diego during Sunday’s 10-8 loss at Ohio State.

IU coach Tracy Smith said after the game that he thought the appearance was a key step to getting Monar back on track and in the rotation and explained what he thought Monar’s biggest holdup was.

“It’s one of those things where he has to get over that mental hurdle of the injury,” Smith said. “That oftentimes happens when you have a significant injury to your (throwing) arm. You’re physically ready but the mental part is just as important.”

The outing was a brief one for Monar. The left-hander threw just four pitches to the left-handed OSU batter Ryan Dew, all balls, to give up a walk. Monar also balked Ohio State base runner Michael Stevens to third just after he had stolen second.

Next up was right-handed OSU batter Cory Rupert, and Smith brought in Hoosiers senior Chris Squires to replace Monar on the mound. Squires then hit two batters in a row, walking in a run that was charged to Monar.

Smith told Monar that he might be used for a few left-handed batters if the situation arose.

“We had said before (Sunday’s) game that given the situation with our pitching right now, we’re going to ask him — if he’s able to — to get a couple of left-handers out,” Smith said. “He came in a key spot to get a lefty out, but it just didn’t work out.”

Monar said last week before the trip to Ohio State that his arm is feeling much better.
“I don’t have any pain anymore,” Monar said after Wednesday’s practice. “Basically, now it’s just building my arm strength back up to where I can pitch again.”

Monar, drafted by the New York Yankees in the 26th round of the Major League Draft out of high school, agreed with his coach that there was a bit of a mental barrier in coming back to the mound after the arm injury.

“Anytime you have an injury there’s a little bit of a mental side,” Monar said, who posted a 5-4 record last year. “I think for me, it’s more that I know it’s almost healthy. I don’t want to go out there and have it be another six weeks because I
re-injured something.”
That concern is something that Smith understands — and has experience with.
“Having had surgery myself in college, I remember that it was as much mental as it was physical,” Smith said last week. “We’re not going to jeopardize him. But when he feels ready to go, at some point he’s going to have to jump off that board and get in there with both feet and see what happens.”

Certainly the Hoosiers could use another consistent starter in its rotation. Big Ten conference play demands a team have three strong pitchers thanks to a format heavy on three-game weekend series.

Sophomore Drew Leininger has stepped up for the Hoosiers as its ace to this point in the season, while fellow sophomore Matt Igel has given the team quality outings of late. Last weekend, Leiniger threw nine innings of four hit, four run baseball in a 10-inning 6-4 Saturday win over OSU to run his season record to 5-1 and ERA to 1.38.
Sunday, though, Monar was one of four pitchers to take the mound — the most they used all weekend — after Walker Stadler ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth inning.

“That’s our Achilles heel, that Sunday game,” Smith said.

Monar might be the answer, but his coach said it was a relief to just see the sophomore get back to the mound.

“It was good to see him just get back out there in a competitive situation,” Smith said. “We’ll see how he responds (this week), but if everything is good hopefully we can get him back here in the next week or so.”

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