March 25, 2017

Josh Fleming winds up for 2017 after injury-plagued season

Webster University pitcher Josh Fleming missed time due to injury last season, but is now fully recovered after offseason rehabilitation.

Fleming missed the first half of last season with elbow soreness and was limited to six starts and 34.1 innings pitched. In those six starts, Fleming went 4-1 with 50 strikeouts and a 2.88 ERA.

Fleming said he received a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection in the offseason to rebuild the tissue in his left elbow. He said he first noticed discomfort in his elbow early last season.

“I got an MRI and the results came back as a low grade UCL [ulnar collateral ligament] sprain,” Fleming said. “Which is not what you really want to hear because the UCL leads to Tommy John surgery. Which is definitely not what you want, but luckily it was a minor sprain.”

This season, Fleming will be part of a rotation that includes Matt Goro, C.J. Lee and Johnny Lord. Head coach Bill Kurich said while this group dealt with some injuries last season, he expects a lot from them.

“Josh is a guy who has pitched in our biggest games since he arrived as a freshman,” Kurich said. “He is a great competitor and we expect a big year out of him.”

During Fleming’s freshman campaign, he went 7-3 in 14 starts with a 2.87 ERA. He pitched 84.2 innings and struck out 86 batters.

Fleming said his father had a big influence on him since he coached him during his childhood. Former Twins pitcher Johan Santana was Fleming’s favorite pitcher growing up. He also credited older teammates and his pitching coach Jake Harper for helping him in his collegiate career.

“My freshman year Isaac Behme was a senior starter, and he was our number one,” Fleming said. “He was a left hander just like me, so I kind of learned a lot from him.”

Adam Naliwajko has caught Fleming since his freshman year. Fleming said he was very comfortable with Naliwajko behind the plate.

Lord said Naliwajko knows baseball well, especially pitching.

“Best receiver I have ever thrown to in my entire career,” Lord said. “He is really good behind the plate, especially defensively.”

Fleming has five pitches in his arsenal, a two seam fastball, a four seam fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. He said his fastball has topped out at 92 miles per hour.

Fleming said the approach he takes on the mound is to go right after the opposing hitter.

“Normally for a game that I’m throwing, I go in thinking I’m the best player on the field,” Fleming said. “That I’m going to win. I always have that mindset when I’m out on the mound. I am going to strike you out, I am going to get you out.”

Lord said Fleming is one of the best pitchers he has seen.

“Throws hard, especially for the D-3 level,” Lord said. “You set your glove as a catcher, and he doesn’t miss the spot.”

Fleming said his main goal for the upcoming season is to simply win games.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to Appleton for the World Series,” Fleming said. “Our core guys are upperclassmen who have been there. We think we have what it takes to get there.”

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