Harrison enters camp focused on comeback

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The litany of injuries experienced by the Texas Rangers last season has set the table for many players to use spring training as an opportunity to continue working on their recovery and comeback.

With pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Arizona for the opening of camp at the Surprise Recreation Complex on Friday, one of the many players Rangers fans are monitoring is Matt Harrison.

The big left-hander continues his journey down an uncertain path after having spinal fusion surgery on June 3. Since then, his offseason has been dedicated to rehab with no guarantee of what his future holds, given the unique nature of the injury and his recurring back issues.

Despite that unknown, Harrison is fueled by the knowledge that he is approximately three quarters of the way through his projected recovery period.

"I was told it takes nine to 12 months to fully heal, and I am getting close to nine months," Harrison said. "It's hard to be patient at this point because I feel good. I want to keep going and keep pushing, but at the same time, I have one shot at this, so I don't want to screw it up by trying to do something too soon.

"I'm trying to listen to the training staff, but this type of injury is new to them too," he said. "It's not like Tommy John surgery or another type of injury that happens all the time in the game, so I'm just taking it day to day and seeing how I feel."

Harrison said the plan is for three more weeks of playing catch while gradually increasing distance to build arm strength. Occasional flat-ground throwing sessions will be mixed in to his routine. If all goes well, he could begin throwing off a mound some time around mid-March.

"The biggest challenge was getting used to rotating again," Harrison said about his recovery. "I went six months without being able to twist or bend over. The throwing is going well. My arm feels great. It's definitely fresh from all the time I've had to miss. It's just now about getting it back into shape."

Harrison has made only six starts since signing his 5-year, $55 million contract with Texas in January 2013. His absence initially left a big hole in the Rangers' starting rotation, but the return of Colby Lewis and moves by general manager Jon Daniels addressed the pitching depth for 2015, which should give Harrison the luxury of being cautious with his recovery.