Weglarz and Stowell look to rebound from injuries
When the Akron Aeros open the 2012 season in Binghamton on April 5, two key players, Nick Weglarz and Bryce Stowell, will be looking to move past injuries that held them back last season.
“Nick went through some injuries last year,” said Akron Aeros Manager Chris Tremie, who is beginning his second season managing the team. “He’s healthy right now and I expect him to have a good season.”
Weglarz labored through an injury-plagued 2011 season, batting just .179 in 41 games. Known as a homerun-hitting outfielder, injuries also sapped Weglarz of his power, limiting him to just three homeruns. His approach at the plate stayed strong, as he managed a 43:36 strike out to walk ratio and posted a .360 on base percentage.
Weglarz thinks he will prove that he can still hit for power if he remains healthy this season, something he has struggled to do throughout his minor league career.
“I want to repeat the season I had a couple years ago,” said Weglarz, referring to his 2010 season in which he posted a .501 SLG% and .893 OPS between AA Akron and AAA Columbus. “Last year wasn’t the same swing that I’ve had because I couldn’t put weight on my back leg. I worked hard this offseason to get my swing back.”
Having missed significant time due to injuries the past two seasons, Weglarz is trying to maintain a positive outlook.
“Some of the injuries were bad luck, and then I think the injuries started to pile on each other,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but you take that aside and realize you’re in AA and just a call away from the big leagues.
“If I put together the season I think I’m going to put together there should be no issues.”
On the other side of the ball, relief pitcher Bryce Stowell is looking to build on his progress from last season. After posting a 1.42 ERA in Lake County and a 0.00 ERA in Akron in 2010, Stowell appeared in 17 games at AAA Columbus before ending the season on the disabled list with an elbow strain. The injury would continue to affect Stowell into 2011, as he made stops at Mahoning Valley and Lake County before finishing the season with the Aeros.
“Last season was definitely a learning experience I needed to go through,” said Stowell. “I just wasn’t right. It took some time that I wasn’t ready to put in. I thought I was ready to go but it didn’t pan out.
“It’s something I needed to go through, and having gone through it now, there’s nothing I look at as an obstacle.”
After struggling with his command last spring, Stowell arrived in Goodyear, Arizona this spring to show that he was healthy. He threw pain free and even touched 98 mph on the radar gun.
“I wanted to capitalize on the time I had and I took advantage of it fully,” said Stowell. “I put in a lot of time in the weight room and I think it paid off. This spring has been great and I feel comfortable in my shoes again.”
In addition to his health, Stowell added a new pitch to add another dimension to his game.
“I really developed a changeup this offseason and I’m looking forward to adding that to my repertoire,” said Stowell. “I’m looking forward to throwing a third pitch and giving me something to attack left handed hitters.”
Heading into 2012, Stowell has a new outlook on the grind that is the regular season.
“The season gets a little long at times,” said Stowell, “but I think if you can commit to your routine you can help the team.”
Tremie hopes that more players on the team approach the length of the season like Stowell.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Tremie. “Some guys know that and a couple of them that are going to see how things go this year. You need to have a relaxed, steady pace.”
Stowell plans to embrace his new routine and let the results speak for themselves.
“I want to commit to the season every day,” said Stowell. “The more you can commit to what makes you good, your mechanics, your approach to the game, that’s all you can ask for as you approach every batter, every inning, and every pitch.”
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.