Kirby, Harrison focusing on rehab at camp

Prospects making progress in recovery from major surgeries

February 29th, 2016

PHOENIX -- For a pair of the Brewers' Top 30 prospects coming off severe injuries, Spring Training is all about getting healthy.

While left-hander Nathan Kirby continues the long road back from Tommy John surgery, outfielder Monte Harrison has his own personal finish line in sight. Harrison has mere weeks remaining in his rehab from a gruesome ankle injury suffered last July, and he said he is optimistic about being active for Opening Day of the Minor League season. Harrison is among the growing body of top center field prospects in Milwaukee's farm system.

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"It's either going to make you or fold you," said Harrison of that competition. "Pressure is your privilege, I feel like."

Harrison, Milwaukee's second-round Draft pick in 2014, is a former top football player who has experience coming back from injury. He said he once broke his jaw and was back playing sports in two weeks.

Last summer's setback, however, proved more serious. Harrison suffered a tibia fracture and a dislocated fibula of his left ankle running the bases for Rookie-level Helena in a mid-July game. He underwent surgery after the swelling subsided and has not played since.

Harrison and Kirby are among the prospects getting treatment and working out at Maryvale Baseball Park's Minor League complex.

"There's some days it feels achy and things like that, but it's a stage you have to fight through," said Harrison, a speedster who said he is confident his skills will return. "They said it shouldn't be a problem. The first thing I asked was, 'Am I going to lose my speed?' They said, 'No, it should come back. It just depends on how hard you work.' I've been working hard."

So has Kirby, a supplemental first-round Draft pick last summer who endured an up-and-down year. He missed much of his season at the University of Virginia with a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder, but he was able to return in time to pitch the final two innings of the Cavaliers' season to clinch the College World Series.

"It felt like a dream, as cliché as that sounds," he said.

Difficult days lay ahead. Kirby, the 40th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, reportedly had an agreement to sign with the Brewers for just over $1.5 million, but the deal was put on hold because of an undisclosed medical issue. Kirby remained unwilling on Monday to say whether the issue was his elbow or something else.

He eventually signed for less -- $1.25 million -- and pitched 12 2/3 innings for Class A Wisconsin before being shut down in August with the elbow injury. Brewers head physician William Raasch performed Tommy John surgery to replace Kirby's torn elbow ligament.

He has been rehabbing with right-hander Taylor Williams, who had the same procedure on his right arm three weeks before Kirby's.

"I started throwing about a month ago, and I feel really, really good," Kirby said. "My elbow has felt as good as it has since I had the surgery, and honestly I'm just happy to be back on the baseball field and feeling like a human being again."

Kirby is about six months into a rehab that often takes a full year.

"I just look forward to getting healthy," Kirby said. "That's literally all I'm worried about right now. I'll worry about throwing off a mound when that time comes, but right now, I'm just worried about getting back out there and throwing again."