On Thursday night, lefty pitcher Matt Imhof returned to action, after eight weeks on the shelf with a bicep strain, to notch the win for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers.
In five innings of work against Bradenton (Pirates affiliate), the 21-year-old tossed five strong innings, allowing one earned run on five hits while striking out four and walking two. It was Imhof’s first start for the Threshers since April 14th.
Fresh off a rehab appearance with the Phillies’ extended spring training club last weekend in which he threw five innings, Imhof, who was the Phillies’ second round draft selection a year ago, took the mound, throwing all three of his pitches with confidence and held nothing back, feeding off the excitement of being back on the mound for a game that counts in the standings.
“It was good to get back out there. When you’re on rehab for seven weeks, or whatever it was, you get a little pent up, so I think there was an adrenaline rush. It’s almost like you’re starting the season all over again. I had a lot of adrenaline, a lot of energy and it was good to get back out there and get the win,” Imhof said over the phone from Florida on Friday.
While the results were good, the six-foot-five 220-pounder asserted that his pitches aren’t as refined as they’ll be after he’s able to get things ironed out and knock any proverbial rust completely off in his upcoming outings.
“As far as how (my pitches) feel, they don’t all feel quite top form,” Imhof confided. “The curve ball was a little bit loopier last night and I didn’t have a great feel for my change up, but I’m throwing everything to the best of my ability. Just trying to get the feel still.”
Outfielder Kelly Dugan, who has been sidelined since spring training with a foot injury, was activated for the Threshers on Thursday as well. Imhof and Dugan spent time together in recent weeks, while the two rehabbed from their injuries.
“I’ve been rehabbing with Dugan and I’m excited to play with him,” Imhof stated. “We had a good little rehab group going on and that definitely made the time (on the sideline) a little easier.”
In Thursday’s game, Dugan did not play, but outfielder Aaron Brown (3rd round pick, 2014) paced the offense with a 2-run homer, helping to lock down Clearwater’s 4-2 victory over the Marauders.
On the season, Imhof’s record is 2-1 and he has tallied a 1.80 ERA with a .260 batting average against in three starts for the Threshers.
Bonus quotes from Imhof…
Asked about how his pitch count and innings cap may increase as he pitches in more games-
“They honestly don’t tell me stuff like that. It’s kind of a game by game basis. Last night I was on a five inning/75 pitch count limit and I think I went five and threw 80. Hopefully, next week, I get to go a little farther. You know, I’d like to go deeper into games and help my team win. So, hopefully, next week I get to go a little farther, but that’s not for me to decide.”
Expanding on how he’ll get a better feel for things as the games go on and his pitch velocity-
“I don’t know where my velocity was last night, but I know it’s starting to come back to where it was earlier in the year. I think if I’m not mistaken, I topped out at 91 last night. The curve ball has been sharper than it was in extended (spring training). Yesterday I was having trouble finding it, but I got it later in the game. The change up, I’m still working on it. It has its good days and bad days. But, you need three pitches as you go up in the levels. You can’t get away with two pitches, unless you’re trying to be a reliever. So, I’m definitely going to need three pitches. I’ll continue to work on the change up. I just need to throw it. I’m comfortable with everything, but I haven’t thrown it a ton in a game, but I really gotta get a feel for it in game action and the only way I’m going to do that is to go out there and throw it more often. But, everything progressed nicely and I’m happy with where I was last night.”
More thoughts on being out of action-
“Anytime you’re away from your team it wears on you a little bit, especially when you’re rehabbing. You do your rehab 8 (AM) to 12 (PM), so 10 hours of my day, I didn’t really do that much, so I’d try to come to as many Threshers games as I could. But, you just feel like you’re not contributing, you get all pent up especially when you start to feel healthy and you want to get back out there.”
“The frustration is definitely the hardest part to deal with.”