Marlborough’s Fuller on comeback trail
Once a starter on the rise in the New York Mets farm system, Jim Fuller is making an impressive comeback pitching out of the bullpen.
Two years ago, the Marlborough High graduate was out of baseball following surgery on his left shoulder.
But in his first 16 appearances this season, spanning 32 innings with the Mets’ Class A affiliate in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the southpaw had compiled a 1-0 record with 31 strikeouts and a 0.84 earned run average.
Those numbers made an impression on the front office.
On Tuesday, the 26-year-old was promoted to Binghamton, N.Y., the Mets’ Double A affiliate in the Eastern League.
St. Lucie Mets manager Ryan Ellis said Fuller earned his promotion by adjusting to a relief role.
“His works off his fastball because he has command of that pitch, and he’s throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes,” said Ellis.
“My velocity has returned to about 91 or 92 miles an hour, which is a little surprising because I’ve been told a lot of pitchers with similar shoulder problems don’t get back to where they were,’’ said Fuller, who had held opposing batters to a .142 average and had gone two or more innings in five of his last 10 appearances.
Selected by New York in the 21st round of the 2008 baseball draft after his sophomore season at Southern Connecticut State University, Fuller was at the top of his game two years later.
He started 19 games for the Savannah Sand Gnats, went 8-3 with a 1.93 earned run average, and was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher. His performance resulted in promotion to St. Lucie later that season.
But there was trouble ahead and Fuller could sense it.
“I knew something wasn’t right with my shoulder. It was bugging me and I wasn’t recovering after my starts like I used to,’’ said the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, who was nevertheless “kind of shocked’’ when told he had a torn labrum that required surgery.
A pitcher ever since his days in Marlborough Little League, Fuller helped lead Marlborough High to four Midland Wachusett League championships and one berth in the state final before graduating in 2005. He had 27 wins and 353 strikeouts in his high school career.
But that seemed like a distant memory after the operation in March 2011 that sidelined him the entire season.
“Even last year,’’ he said, “I was babying my arm and not really back to where I wanted to be.’’
The numbers reflected his struggle to return: a combined 3-5 record and 5.72 ERA with Savannah and St. Lucie.
But after a fourth offseason of workouts at Cressey Performance in Hudson, he reported to spring training this year stronger and more confident.
“It’s a different mind-set, but it’s gone well for the most part, and I knew what the Mets had planned for me because I was pitching just an inning or two early on,’’ said Fuller, who caught the Mets’ eye with a sophomore season at Southern Connecticut in which he went 9-3 with a 1.39 ERA, recorded a 59-inning streak without allowing an earned run, led the nation in strikeouts, and earned Division 2 All-America honors.
“It’s great to know that I can still bring it because I’ve always been a strikeout pitcher,” he said. “Even when things were tough last year, I kept battling and tried to stay positive, and I’m just happy that I’m healthy again.’’
Phil Regan, St. Lucie’s pitching coach, who played for four major league teams and was 14-1 out of the pen for the 1966 National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers, has been a great influence, said Fuller.
“We’ve known each other for several years, he’s aware of my surgery, and he’s been good about not overusing me,’’ Fuller said. “Teams need lefties who are effective out of the bullpen, so I just need to keep hitting my spots and building up my innings and not thinking too far ahead.’’
Marcal, at Brown, makes All-Ivy team
Lexington’s Will Marcal, a sophomore right fielder on the Brown University baseball team, was named to the All-Ivy League’s second team.
An Ivy honorable mention last year, Marcal was also honored as Brown’s MVP after leading the Bears in seven offensive categories, including average (.324), hits (47), and runs batted in (23). He started all 40 of his team’s games.
Marcal was among 12 recipients of the Globe/Richard Phelps Scholar-Athlete Award his senior year at Lexington High, where he was a three-year baseball captain and the first sophomore captain in program history. He was also a two-time Globe All-Scholastic and Middlesex League MVP.
Here and there
Concord resident Herb Taylor, a 1984 graduate of Bates College, was inducted Saturday into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the DCU Center in Worcester. Taylor, the first 1,000-point scorer at Worcester’s Doherty Memorial High, ranks second all-time at Bates with 498 career assists and 13th with 1,205 points as a playmaking guard and forward. He was twice named to the Academic All-American first team. . . .
Framingham light welterweight Danny O’Connor will honor the Boston Marathon bombing victims and support the One Fund Boston on Saturday when he takes on Hector Munoz in a eight-rounder at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. O’Connor will wear a specially designed outfit with the Boston Marathon logo and the names of victims, with the attire to be auctioned off to benefit the fund. . .
The annual Acton-Boxborough Regional football alumni golf tournament is set for Tuesday at Wedgewood Pines Country Club in Stow. A luncheon is at noon and tee time is 1 p.m. For information, go to www.abfootballalumni.org.