TEMPE, Ariz. -- Matthew Shoemaker's 2016 season came to a sudden, terrifying end in September when he was struck on the head by a line drive, an injury that sent the 30-year-old Angels right-hander to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.
Shoemaker still bears a scar on the right side of his head from the incident, but he said he has no lingering apprehension about his health as he works toward returning to the mound for the Angels.
"Thankfully, I feel really good," Shoemaker said Thursday. "I feel completely normal, if not a little bit better, given that little bit of time at the end of the season that I was off. I kind of got going with my offseason workouts a little bit sooner because I had that unwanted break. But I feel great."
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Shoemaker, who went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA over 160 innings last year, missed the final month of the season as he healed from surgery, but he was cleared to begin his normal offseason workouts by late November. He resumed throwing on Dec. 1 and threw his first official Spring Training bullpen session Thursday at Tempe Diablo Stadium without any restrictions.
The next step for Shoemaker will be to face a hitter, which he has not done since the injury. Still, Shoemaker said he isn't feeling nervous about the prospect of facing hitters again next week.
"I don't think it's going to be an issue at all," Shoemaker said. "And if it is an issue, I think it might last like two pitches. Just to get the jitters out, if there are any. But currently I don't think there are going to be any. You don't really know that until you're out there, but I'm just happy with the state of mind I'm currently in."
Shoemaker said he is considering wearing a protective cap this season and has narrowed down his options to a couple of designs. He plans on trying them out during Spring Training before deciding whether to stick with a protective cap over the long term.
"I've been messing with stuff this offseason, and even [will continue] to mess with stuff this spring," Shoemaker said. "There's no definitive answer with that yet. I'm OK wearing something or not wearing something. With that being said, if I wear something, it's going to be comfortable and I'm not going to really be thinking about that while I'm pitching."