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Narveson's return nearly a year in the making

Narveson's return nearly a year in the making play video for Narveson's return nearly a year in the making

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Chris Narveson returned to the mound Wednesday afternoon, almost 10 months after a torn rotator cuff ended his 2012 season after only two starts.

The Brewers left-hander had mixed results in his 30-pitch outing. He struck out his first batter and allowed two hard hits, but at this point neither of those things mattered.

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He was just just happy to be back.

"Definitely," Narveson said. "[There was] so much anticipation, and it's a feeling of relief to go out there and be able to be back on the mound again."

Narveson allowed one run on two hits but said he felt he stayed within his mechanics and did not overthrow his pitches. And, most importantly, he crossed a mental hurdle.

"A lot of times you start thinking, 'How's it going to feel? What's it going to be like that first time out?'" Narveson said. "And once that adrenaline starts going, it kind of gets you back into that feel of being on the mound."

Narveson was not the only one pleased with his first start back.

"I think he threw some really good pitches. He missed with a few, but I liked it," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought the ball came out well. For being out that long, I liked it."

Narveson's return also brought much joy to his fellow starting pitchers, who watched the lefty cope with losing basically an entire season just as it was beginning.

"It was tough for him to go through that last year, especially so early in the season," Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo said. "I've had the opportunity to talk to him here the first few weeks, and he's [excited]."

Narveson's outing was his latest step in the long road back from the May operation that ended his year after nine innings. With such an injury occurring so early in the year -- and with little-to-no chance for a 2012 comeback -- no one would have blamed Narveson if he returned to his Phoenix home and stewed in disappointment.

Instead, he stayed. Narveson rehabbed with the Brewers in Milwaukee, hung around his teammates and gave advice despite being unable to help on the field. His dedication -- to both his rehab and the team -- struck a chord with his fellow starting pitchers.

"To see his work ethic and how he goes about his business around the clubhouse and weight room, you can definitely learn from it as a younger guy," Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers said.

The 31-year-old Narveson has dealt with his share of injuries during his 13 professional seasons, from last year's torn rotator cuff to offseason Tommy John surgery before the 2002 season and other shoulder issues in between. Needless to say, he is well aware of the mental grind it takes to return from an injury.

So, too, are Gallardo and Fiers, who share an admiration for how Narveson worked to return and the experience of doing so themselves.

Gallardo tore his anterior cruciate ligament three starts into 2008 as a second-year player coming off an impressive rookie campaign. Although he returned to make one September start, Gallardo said such an early injury could be mentally devastating.

"Just knowing in your head that you're going to be missing the whole year, it's mentally tough," Gallardo said. "Especially for myself, it was the first major injury I encountered. But I had the opportunity to be around the guys and do my rehab in Milwaukee, and it helps a lot."

Fiers' missed season came not because of a baseball injury but rather a 2008 car accident while in college that led to four fractures in his back, a fracture in his hip and a dislocated leg. He spent a full season sidelined and frustrated, but also determined to get back.

Fiers said he saw that same determination in Narveson, who gained his teammates' respect in 2012 despite not being able pitch.

"Yeah, he wasn't out on the field with us," Fiers said, "but he was definitely part of the team and he was definitely a good teammate."

On Wednesday, Narveson took the next step to being more than just a good teammate in the clubhouse, and he and the Brewers could not be happier.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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