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OSU's Rasmussen aims to pitch in 2017

Drew Rasmussen keeps hearing that his injury was a blessing in disguise.

While he isn’t ready to agree with that assessment, the Oregon State ace does believe he’ll add to the lengthy list of pitchers who have come back stronger than ever from Tommy John surgery.

Rasmussen, a 6-foot-1, 226-pound flamethrower, went down with an elbow injury on March 24 in a Pac-12 Conference baseball game at California. An MRI revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament, requiring the infamous procedure and ending the sophomore's season.

Without their ace, the Beavers still finished 35-19 overall (16-14 Pac-12) but were shockingly left out of the postseason for the first time since 2008. Watching the young team traverse the ups and downs of a Pac-12 schedule from the dugout was difficult for Rasmussen, who hopes to be back at some point during the 2017 season.

“Obviously, not playing the second half of the season wasn’t easy for me,” the right-hander said during an interview last week. “I love the game, I love playing, I love our team, I love winning. I love when our team has success, so I want to do everything I can to help.

“By far the hardest part was not being able to impact the games physically.”

Typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is nine-to-12 months, but some cases take much longer. While the procedure used to be risky and career threatening, recent studies have shown that roughly 85 percent of pitchers come back at or above their previous level.

“He’ll be fine. If anything with him, we’ll have to pull back the reins,” OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. “He’s always been an aggressive person by nature, and I mean that in the best definition of the word. He’s just a guy who is highly motivated and very accountable.”

Rasmussen, a top prospect for the 2017 Major League Baseball draft, is in the second phase of the rehabilitation process, which focuses on strengthening the elbow. He regularly works on grips and juggles with baseballs four times per week to improve conditioning and neuromuscular control.

The first part of part of the third phase, light catch, is generally reached four or five months after surgery.

Though he doesn’t have a target date set, Rasmussen should begin throwing in August or September if he stays on track.

“Everything so far to allow me to get back on the field for next year is going great at this point,” Rasmussen said. “We are just going to keep working hard and just continue pushing every day to do everything we can to allow me to have a quality season next year.”

Rasmussen was electric as a freshman, going 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts. He also threw the first perfect game in program history against Washington State. Rasmussen became the team’s No. 1 starter in 2016 and went 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA before going down at California.

“My arm just started to tighten up,” Rasmussen said. “It didn’t hurt too bad, it just felt a lot different. According to the doc, it’s been a long time coming."

Oregon State's Drew Rasmussen tossed the program's first perfect game as a freshman in 2015. PHOTO COURTESY CORVALLIS GAZETTE-TIMES