Covers ready to return to form

Covers ready to return to form

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

SIU redshirt freshman pitcher Austin Covers is finally healthy after suffering a season-ending injury that a teammate had as well. 

Covers injured his elbow after pitching only one inning against Texas Christian University on Feb. 15, 2015, and had surgery to repair it. Redshirt senior pitcher Bryce Sablotny suffered a similar injury in 2013. 

Sablotny, who was granted another year of eligibility following a second injury, said Covers’ surgery was a modified version of the procedure he had. But instead of removing the elbow ligament, as doctors did to Sablotny, Covers’ ligament was fixed and re-strengthened through rehab.

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“It’s a long, excruciating process, and I just told him to take it easy and follow protocol by going to see the trainer every single day,” he said. “There’s not a lot of advice to give. You just have to go in and put in the work needed to recover.”

Coach Ken Henderson said Covers is set to pitch in the upcoming season, but will need some time to get back to form. Covers was an all-area selection for Prairie Ridge High School in 2014. 

“He hasn’t pitched in over 12 months and hasn’t thrown to a live hitter during that time either, so it will be a gradual process of getting him some work over time to make sure he’s good to go for games,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he is unsure when Covers will take the mound, or if he’ll be a starter or reliever, but the Crystal Lake native will be ready for the season opener if needed.

For Covers, it’s all about ending rehab and getting back to the mound.

“The main focus of rehab was to gain strength back in my elbow and my arm,” he said. “We did a lot of strength exercises and stretches to regain mobility four and five times a week, usually once a day that focused on regaining strength in all the muscles in my arm. [It] took awhile and was stressful at times because of the slow progression.”

Covers’ surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, who has operated on athletes such as Michael Jordan and Andy Pettite.

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Pitching coach P.J. Finigan said the goal now is to get the tall lefty up to speed with out overexerting him.

“Compared to last season, he’s a little behind because his arm strength isn’t where it needs to be,” he said. “We’ll have to communicate on a day-to-day basis about how he feels. The good thing about him is he’s a smart kid and a tough competitor and he’ll get back to being on top of his game.”

The Salukis hope Covers can help improve their 6.14 earned run average from last season, which was ranked last in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

SIU opens the season 6 p.m. Friday in Lake Charles, La., against McNeese State. 

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