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Rustich Just Wants a Healthy Arm
Blisters have been a constant presence since Rustich's days at UCLA and even sidelined him for a few weeks this summer. Yet, it has been a stress fracture in his humerus bone which has kept Rustich on five days rest for most of his career and is something that has afflicted him since he first suited up in Brooklyn in 2007.
"When I signed with the Mets, I was having the same arm pain between my elbow and my shoulder. But it's so rare that it's tough to diagnosis originally because they don't go looking for stress fractures in the humerus. They go looking for tears in the UCL (elbow ligament) or shoulder problems," Rustich explained.
"But my elbow and shoulder never really hurt so they went in and kind of misdiagnosed it at first. So I would go out and pitch but it would get to the point where I couldn't pitch anymore. When I finally went to New York, I finally got diagnosed with a stress fracture in my humerus bone."
While Rustich's ultimate role is out of the bullpen, even taking on more than two innings at a time became problematic. Fears of his finger injury—a surgically repaired tendon in his right middle finger—recurring led to sparing use in Brooklyn in 2007, but he contends the arm injury was even present then.
Additionally, Rustich acknowledged that any greater frequency over the past two seasons would have been very challenging, or not possible at all, after the arm pain returned towards the end of spring training this past March.
"It was something I rested for four months last year and I ended up feeling real strong going into Spring Training. But towards the end of camp I was having the same issues in the area between my biceps and my triceps," he said.
"It wasn't like my muscles hurt, but it was between my biceps and tripces and it was bone. After all my years pitching, I know when my arm is just sore and when it's real pain."
Though pitching limited innings in a piggyback role, Rustich was still elected to the Florida State League All-Star Game, but missed it as a bout of blistering popped up and sidelined him for four weeks mid-season.
Upon his return, the deep pain in the middle of his arm flared up, but Rustich returned to the bullpen where his fastball still hit mid-90s on the gun so he figured he could battle through it. But he could not and Rustich admitted that between outings he barely had enough arm strength to throw the baseball, let alone pitch.
"I went back in the bullpen and I was throwing the ball great. I was hitting 97 MPH but the day or two after each outing; I couldn't pick up a baseball. It's funny because I go out and perform, throwing mid-90s, striking people out and people assume that I'm not hurt."
"You'd think I'm able to recover but I'm pitching out there with a really sore arm. I think I'm able to just do it because I'm 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. I think I could do it with my arm falling off, but my arm just can't recover."
Eventually, the pain became too much and Rustich's willpower broke down. Under the advice coming from a number of directions, including his teammates, the right-hander went to New York to see a bone specialist who delivered sobering news.
"Thankfully my teammates convinced me to go see the doctors because I was going to keep pitching through it. I took all the over-the-counter stuff to kill the pain, to pitch, and I thought I was over the injury after last off-season's pain.
"But I go to the see the doctors, I get a bone scan and the doctors told me that if I kept pitching, my arm was going to snap. When the doctors saw the bone scan they thought it was a real good idea that I stopped throwing."
"They checked out my elbow and my shoulder and both came out good. So they sent me to a bone specialist and we talked about how long I had the issue and it's been about three years that I've had a consistent stress fracture in my humerus bone."
Rustich made only three appearances in the season's final six weeks before making yet another trip to New York to see the medical staff which gave Rustich a vote of confidence that the newly prescribed treatment should and will work.
"So now I'm taking a hormone every day, a hormone that regenerates bone, and I've had a lot of follow up work done. I had a lot of blood work done and everything looked good, so I've been okayed to keep taking the hormone and that's pretty much all I've been doing this off-season."
"The doctors told me they wished it was a soft tissue problem that they could go in and fix. But there is nothing I can do except rest, but this specialist seemed very positive about this drug I'm taking," Rustich detailed.
"He thinks it will really make a difference and i'm really hoping it does. I can't wait to pitch without pain, pitch every day and do whatever is necessary to move up."
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