He admitted it was a rough month. He knew the struggles his team had closing late games without him on the mound. After over a month watching from the dugout or on TV, he was finally about to play in a live baseball game again.
But when Tyler Johnson headed to the mound in Tuesday’s 20-5 loss to North Carolina, it didn’t faze him.
“No nerves,” he said, flashing a smile. “I don’t really ever get nervous.”
The righty closer made his first appearance since March 4 against Clemson Tuesday, throwing one perfect inning against the Tar Heels.
He missed the last month of the season rehabbing from arm soreness, protecting his flame-throwing arm from any more harm. He was scheduled to return for the Gamecocks’ third SEC series against Vanderbilt, but he had to wait a few extra days.
So when he conquered the pitcher’s mound at BB&T Ballpark Tuesday night, he was conquering his own little mountain he had to overcome.
“I felt good. It was a big, personal mountain to climb,” he said. “I went out there and I had every intention of feeling good so I did. I can’t wait to build upon this outing and get out there.”
With Johnson out rehabbing, the Gamecocks won 14 of 20 games and blew ninth-inning leads against Auburn and Vanderbilt. Head coach Chad Holbrook said having Johnson back could give the Gamecocks (21-11, 7-5 SEC) an added boost late in tight games.
For Johnson, he’s just happy to be back competing with his team after sitting out over four weeks with his injury.
“They’ve been pretty tough, sitting there and watching us play,” “We’re back now. About two weeks ago I started seeing the end of the hill and from there it was smooth sailing. It’s been a long road.”
The righty who was rumored to hit 100 miles an hour on the radar gun this year threw about 94 miles an hour Tuesday night.
He should be full-tilt when the Gamecocks host Mississippi State this Friday.
“You always have game adrenaline running through you, so that helped. I didn’t want to go out there and go high at them,” Johnson said. “We got so many more games to play, so many more important situations. I just really want to get out there and thrown strikes, work on some off-speed and see what happens.”