Immediately after Spring Training last year, Rumbelow found out he had a complete tear in his UCL. In the first inning of his season Triple-A debut last year, he felt a pull in his arm. Although he tried to play through the pain, he was unable to finish the second inning:
“I couldn’t throw the ball all the way to home plate,” Rumbelow said. “So, they flew me from Rochester to New York City to get checked out by Dr. Ahmad (head team physician), where he told me I had a complete tear in my UCL. About a week later, I had Tommy John surgery.”
Tommy John surgery is a surgical operation where a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. At the time the injury occurred, Rumbelow, who wouldn’t pitch again the rest of the year, said he didn’t notice any indication of anything feeling unusual:
“Looking back now, I think there were signs. But did I know that before? No. After the tear, I was just thinking through and realized that I felt this way that time, and that way this time.”
Going through rehab and missing the game of baseball can be very tedious and challenging for players, but Rumbelow has the positive mindset that made his recovery seem more expeditious:
“I mean Tommy John Surgery can be both hard mentally and physically, but the support system around the Yankees and the PT’s [physical trainers] I got to work with made going through rehab less difficult. It was all such a positive environment, and that’s the mindset I had. I had a week off before surgery and that was the time to free my mind and focus on all the positive things that could come out of this.”
Nick found the positives that resulted from his injury and felt rewarded for what he had come to learn, rather than feeling sorry for himself:
“I was able to learn more about my body and I think it prepared me to go ahead in my career and create more longevity. With having this setback and being away from baseball for almost a full year, it was challenging because I had never done something like this before, but it was very rewarding as well. You are always going to miss competing and all, but I never really let that dwell on my mind. I just focused on what was in my environment at the time [rehabbing in Tampa].”
Rumbelow has been very lucky and has experienced a timely recovery. His arm extension returned very quickly, and he has not felt a continuous amounts of pain:
“I feel that the way I approached my rehab set the pace of where I am at. I mean I just feel great. Tommy John surgery can take about 15-18 months for recovery and I am at about 14 months, and finally playing the game again. I feel that my arm is even better than before, thanks to Dr. Ahmad, who did such a great job. “
He wants to return to the Bronx and play in the major leagues again. In order to get back to the big leagues, however, Rumbelow needs to embrace the process of competing:
“I am here with Double-A again and I am happy to be here. I am happy to be playing baseball again and I am never going to take for granted the game anymore. I’m not mad or bitter that I am not at Triple-A or the big leagues [yet]: I’m competing, I’m on this team, and we are winning. It’s fun and it’s something I had missed being injured.”
So far he has picked up right where he left off, striking out 14 batters through his first 9.2 innings and allowing just four hits and one walk in his first seven appearances. It was three years ago when he breezed through the Double-A level in the same number of appearances and putting up similar strikeout totals.
The Yankees have provided a great support system for Rumbelow throughout his whole process, which is the reason he resigned with them despite being designated for assignment this past November.
“They are a first class organization and they care about you. They cared about me as a person and getting me back on the field. I love seeing the guys that I went through this process with doing so well and that’s the great thing about the whole minor league system.”
With the early success he’s shown thus far and Rumbelow’s mindset overall, getting back to the major leagues will be very attainable:
“I want to get better every year and find these little things that make me better. I think being away, I learned how to prepare more and I think my routine is now better than it’s ever been If I take care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself,” he concluded.