Outside the Lines: Former Panther hopes to climb into AA

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

This spring marks the fourth season away from Mike O&8217;Berry&8217;s Pelham Panthers ball club for pitcher Chris Vines. In the late summer of 2003 Vines traded in his Panthers&8217; green and gold for the navy and red of the Atlanta Braves organization after being selected as a fifth round draft pick.

Since then Vines has impressed the Braves personnel on his way to being the organizations&8217; Pitcher of the Year in 2004 and being named a South Atlantic League All-Star last June.

However, just before his opportunity to pitch in a professional All-Star game at the age of 21, he noticed he was losing velocity in his pitches while playing in Savannah.

&8220;I wasn&8217;t feeling any pain, but they wanted me to get an MRI anyway,&8221; Vines said.

The result was a tare in his elbow and the need for Tommy John Surgery, which was performed on July 18.

After eight months of rehabbing, Vines now has May 15 set as his target date to return to the mound, most likely at the high A level in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

&8220;A lot of guys could have looked at this negatively, but I took a different approach, saying &8216;man, let&8217;s get this done and let&8217;s get back on the mound and get this going again&8217;,&8221; Vines said.

After spending this week at home with his family, Vines will return to the Braves training camp at the Disney Wide World of Sports, where he has been since January 10 rehabbing his arm and once again impressing the Braves personnel. He credits a large part of his success to his preparation given by O&8217;Berry, a Major League catcher and former Panther head coach.

&8220;He&8217;s gotten me mentally prepared at this age to face the pressures up here. Every aspect and angle of the game, I feel like I&8217;ve learned already at a young age. That&8217;s one of the things the Braves praise on is how much I&8217;m advanced in maturity,&8221; Vines said.

That baseball maturity in both mechanics and mental preparation is what may have Vines pitching in the opposing team&8217;s bullpen at Regions Park in Hoover by the end of the season.

&8220;I&8217;d love to get up here and get the chance to pitch in my home town in front of my family,&8221; Vines said. He hopes to amaze others by being 22-years-old and a member of the Braves AA team in Mississippi by June