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After a pair of surgeries and two years without taking the mound, fifth-year senior lefty Scott Silverstein is 10-1.
Courtesy of UVa
Virginia pitcher Scott Silverstein underwent two operations to repair a torn labrum.
Courtesy of UVa
Lefty Scott Silverstein will start Sunday for the Cavaliers against Mississippi State.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE —When Scott Silverstein takes the mound against Mississippi State Sunday , one of his biggest fans will be settling in front of a computer in Afghanistan, where it will be 3 o’clock Monday morning.
Dad Steve Silverstein, who works for the U.S. Department of Defense, will be awaiting the latest chapter in what Virginia coach Brian O’Connor describes as one of the most compelling stories in his 10-year tenure.
Silverstein will start Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Cavaliers’ second game against the Bulldogs in one of college baseball’s best-of-three super regionals, which begins today at 1 p.m.
Silverstein, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound left-hander from Brookeville, Md., never took the mound in his first two seasons at UVa and entered this season — his fifth — with a 3-5 career record.
All he has done this season as a graduate student is go 10-1 and post a 2.86 earned-run average while facing each of the other seven ACC teams that received NCAA Tournament bids, including Georgia Tech twice.
When he arrived at Virginia in the fall of 2008, Silverstein said this week, his only goal was to pitch in an intrasquad game.
He had missed his senior year at St. John’s in Washington, D.C., as the result of a tear in his left labrum, a piece of cartilage that connects the shoulder with the upper arm.
Surgery was performed by a Washington Nationals orthopedist and Silverstein saw action for the Cavaliers in the spring of 2009, getting 21 at-bats as a designated hitter, first baseman and pinch-hitter. The idea was that he would pitch as a sophomore in 2010.
“I tell them, ‘Your arm talks to you; you have to talk to me,’” UVa pitching coach Karl Kuhn said.
When Silverstein resumed throwing following the 2009 season, it wasn’t long before his arm started aching again and the UVa staff dispatched him for another MRI.
“I got hurt on a Monday and I was down in Alabama on Thursday,” Silverstein said.
A second operation was performed there by Dr. James Andrews, a renowned orthopedic surgeon who has UVa ties dating back to a six-month internship with the late Frank McCue, then the UVa team doctor, in 1972.
“When I went down to see Dr. Andrews, I said, ‘Is he ever going to pitch again?’” said Steve Silverstein . “He said, ‘Do you know Roger Clemens?’ I said, ‘Why, sure, I know Roger Clemens. He had a pretty good career.’ Andrews said, ‘I did the same operation on him.’
“Only superstars get to see James Andrews. We could have gone down to his clinic in Pensacola, Fla., but Andrews does the actual operations on Virginia players. He did it on [fellow UVa pitchers] Whit Mayberry and Artie Lewicki and that’s because of the McCue connection. He always mentions it when we’re down there.”
Never lost scholarship
When Silverstein made his long-delayed UVa pitching debut in 2011, he pitched in 14 games for a total of 14 1⁄3 innings, mostly in situations calling for a left-hander to face a left-handed hitter.
He also pitched to one batter against South Carolina in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“O’Connor did that on purpose just to plant that seed,” Steve Silverstein said. “Scott was nowhere near the shape he needed to be, but O’Connor put him up there for one batter. You could say one thing about O’Connor — or actually you could say many things — but his word is his bond.”
When Silverstein was being redshirted following his second labrum surgery in 2010, father and son occasionally would sit in the stands and watch UVa games at Davenport Field.
“I was standing outside one night and I was going to pick up Danny Hultzen for dinner,” Steve Silverstein. “Coach O’Connor came up. This was right after Scott’s second operation and he said, ‘Listen, don’t worry about your son. He’s always going to have a scholarship here. We’re not going to ever give up on him.’
“That meant the world to me and that’s the kind of belief that he instilled in Scott, which gave him the confidence to think, ‘Maybe this thing will work out.’ ”
Silverstein was part of UVa’s weekend rotation for ACC play in 2012 and started 15 games, but he wore down as the season went on. O’Connor recently said that Silverstein’s fastball topped out at 87 mph last year, compared to the 92-93 mph at which he regularly was clocked last Saturday in seven innings of two-hit ball against Elon.
“After last year, no one wanted to do well more than he did,” said fellow fifth-year senior Jared King, one of Silverstein’s roommates for four seasons and a rehab partner when King had shoulder surgery. “The way he’s transformed himself into being a really dominant pitcher for us, I’m just so proud of him.”
Silverstein arrived at Virginia at the same time as Hultzen, a fellow left-hander who had been on D.C.-area travel teams with Silverstein from the time they were 14. Hultzen was a three-time first-team All-ACC choice before the Seattle Mariners selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft.
Silverstein grew earlier than Hultzen and was considered the better prospect at one stage. Silverstein took recruiting visits to Stanford and Rice, two of college baseball’s perennial powers, and was scheduled to meet with a Vanderbilt coach on the week he committed to UVa.
Now pain free, Silverstein hopes to follow his former teammate into professional baseball, but all of his focus is on this weekend’s super regional and the possibility of a return trip to the CWS. If the Cavaliers get that far, his dad will jet in from Afghanistan, as he did for the ACC Tournament and a couple of regular-season games.
“I want to say I expected [his 2013 success] myself but you never really know,” Scott said. “Everything I’m doing now is like icing on the cake. All I really wanted to do is come back, be healthy and compete at a high level.
“Quitting was never an option.”
Kuhn said the odds of a player returning from labrum surgery are 50-50. Silverstein faced those odds twice.
“He’s staring at you there in the bullpen and he’s frustrated, he’s angry, he’s mad, he’s crying, he can’t get right and it’s like you’re looking at your son,” Kuhn said. “How can you take the pain away from your child? You can’t.”
So, you wait and share in his joy.
“I’m excited and glad,” Kuhn said, “glad that I’ve got a very, very good seat for this young man’s senior year and comeback.”
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