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Diefenbach makes way back from arm injury to pitch for TCL Generals

By aalvarado
June 1, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.

Victoria Generals pitcher Denver Diefenbach hurls a split-finger fastball during practice at Riverside Stadium on Monday. TODD KRAININ/TKRAININ@VICAD.COM

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Victoria Generals vs. East Texas Pump Jacks

WHEN: Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Riverside Stadium

2011 VICTORIA GENERALS PREVIEW

Denver Diefenbach had the best seat in the house in 2011.

The problem was he didn't want to be sitting in the dugout at Nolan Ryan Field helping the Texas A&M-Kingsvile coaching staff chart games, but an injury to his right army during the fall forced him to take a medical redshirt during his sophomore year.

"I was glad to be a part of the team and everything, but there's nothing like playing," Diefenbach said. "It was bad."

Diefenbach will have a chance to pitch competitively for the first time since last spring when he returns to his hometown to pitch for the defending Texas Collegiate League champions Victoria Generals this summer.

Although watching games was frustrating, Diefenbach used his time on the bench to understand the game better. Members of the Javelinas coaching staff saw an improvement when he was able to pitch simulated games in practice towards the end of the season.

"We've seen him turn into more of a pitcher instead of a thrower," said A&M-Kingsville coach Jason Gonzales.

During his time at St. Joseph Diefenbach was named to a TAPPS all-state team, three all-district teams and won a district MVP award.

After graduating in 2009, Diefenbach appeared in 13 games during his freshman year at A&M-Kingsville.

This is the second straight year Diefenbach will play summer collegiate baseball. Last year, he played for the Joplin Outlaws of the Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas League.

"I watched the movie 'Summer Catch' growing up and I expected something like that, but it was different," Diefenbach said. "It was a good environment."

Diefenbach returned to A&M-Kingsville, but during fall practice, he tore the posterior portion of his ulnar collateral ligament.

He decided not to have surgery and began the same rehabilitation program used by the Colorado Rockies along with a pitching program mixed in.

Although the program was not easy, Diefenbach said he knows players that have had surgery and go through a much longer rehabilitation program.

"I hated it and it was only 3, 4 months worth," Diefenbach said. "I can't imagine doing it for a year. You have to be patient."

Gonzales said that collegiate baseball leagues like the TCL are valuable to players who are coming back from injury. After completing the rehabilitation program the next step is getting re-accustomed to pitching competitively.

"He's got to get some innings under his belt, he's got to get some time on the mound," Gonzales said. "He's got to see some hitters."

Diefenbach said that he wanted to play for the Generals last year, but the team already had a full roster. He was drawn to the TCL by the level of competition and a chance to pitch at home.

Playing for the Generals also gives Diefenbach and the other players on the team a chance to learn from Generals coach Ryan Wagner.

After finishing his high school career at Yoakum, Wagner played college baseball at the University of Houston and moved on to a five-year major league career with the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.

Wagner also has a chance to help players like Diefenbach with the mental approach of the game that includes coming back from an injury.

During his professional career Wagner tore a labrum and missed the entire 2008 season before returning to the game at the Triple-A level.

Baseball players often rush back from injury due to the competitive nature of the game, as they want to get back on the field as soon as possible. Wagner said it's important to work injured players back slowly and not have them overexert themselves.

"Being able to understand is a part that I can help with through that experience that I've had," Wagner said.

Diefenbach looks to take advantage of the summer and has already set some personal and team goals.

"Win another Texas Collegiate championship and personally get my confidence back," Diefenbach said. "Get back to just being a pitcher."

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