Matt Packer ready to resume promising career
Akron Aeros pitcher Matt Packer turned plenty of heads in the Indians organization after a stellar 2011 season, and after having success at the Double A level, there was a lot of promise heading into this year’s campaign before a shoulder injury put him on the shelf for the better part of 2012. Packer, now healthy and playing, is looking to build off of the success he had last year and prove he’s still a big-time pitcher that the Aeros can count on.
Packer, a 24-year-old whom the Indians selected in the 32nd round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Virginia, was called up by the Aeros July 19th in an effort to get him back to the player the that had so much success at Canal Park just a year ago.
Packer led the Eastern League and Indians farm system in innings pitched with 169 1/3 in 2011, and also tied for second in the Eastern League in starts that year with 27. He finished the season with a 9-12 record, 4.31 ERA, and struck out 129 batters to only 33 walks.
After a heavy workload in 2011, Packer said the shoulder began to bother him just as he was heading into Spring Training this year. At first, Packer said he thought it was just normal arm soreness from the rigors of Spring Training, but the injury turned out to be a rotator cuff strain, and lingered longer than he expected it to.
“I thought I could throw through it, and it turned out that I couldn’t, which ended up hurting me a little bit,” said Packer. “I pulled a muscle in my rotator cuff and it just took a long time to heal, then you have to build your shoulder back up, so it’s kind of a long process.”
Packer said the rehab process was not fun, but he accomplished what he needed to in order to get back in healthy form.
“You get there and you work on strengthening your arm and gradually getting back to where you were,” said Packer on the arduous process.n“You have to be very patient, because it takes a long time for muscles to heal and get your arm back to where it was. It’s not something I want to do again.”
Packer started his season off with three rehab starts in the Arizona Rookie League. He never went more than two innings, but looked solid. He made two outstanding starts in Carolina, and didn't give up a run in either, going eight total innings. His last start was a five-inning gem. It was time for the Aeros call-up. Packer made his first start with the Aeros in nearly a year on July 19th, getting the win after six five-hit innings. He didn't give up an earned run. Packer says he’s 100 percent and ready to go.
“The last couple starts I recovered, and as usual there was a little soreness the next day, but you get better, and by the time the next start came around, I was back to normal. I’m feeling just as good as I was last year,” said Packer.
Aeros manager Chris Tremie said that what he likes most about Packer is the experience he brings, and his great arsenal of pitches. “He’s got a good fastball that he locates well, he’s got a good slider, and throws a good changeup,” said Tremie. “He’s got experience pitching in this league, and I think that’s something that you’ll see all of us benefit from him being here,” he said. “I think we’re going to benefit as a club having him back. He has pitched well here in the past and has had some success at the Double A level before.”
Tremie noted that Packer will not be on any sort of a restrictive pitch count, and will receive work “pretty close” to the other members of the Aeros pitching staff.
Tremie said he’s not looking for anything specific in Packer’s return, just for him to get back to pitching, log some starts and innings, stay healthy, and will see where it goes from there.
“He’s going to help us, and it’s great to see him back. I know he’s worked hard to get back to where he’s at right now,” said Tremie.
Packer said that now that he’s back, he is aiming to return to his 2011 form, and will do everything he can to keep the Aeros on top of the Eastern League.
“I’m trying to pick up where I left off last year, finish as strong as I can, and do the best I can to help this team keep winning.”