BALTIMORE -- If Matt Albers needs some reassurance about his rehabilitation program, he can find it from one of his closest lockermates. Albers recently began a workout regimen designed to strengthen the labrum in his right shoulder and is facing surgery if it doesn't work, but teammate Adam Loewen came through a similar process early in his career.
A labrum tear is regarded as one of the most serious injuries for a pitcher, and neither rehabilitation or surgery carry the same recovery rates as those for elbow injuries. Loewen -- who ended last season with a surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left elbow -- can recall how he felt during his labrum scare and share the positive account of a full return to health.
The southpaw said he felt a pinch in his shoulder near the end of the 2004 season, an ominous sign that sent Baltimore's developmental team into instant salvage mode. Loewen was shut down and soon began his rehab program.
"It was like the second-to-last start," he said. "So I went down to Sarasota and rehabbed it and didn't feel it at all there. That was the only time I've ever felt it. I think it was more of a strain than having to do with the tear in there. I'm sure that every pitcher has something going on somewhere. It's just a matter of is it going to be a problem or not."
Loewen said that surgery was never an option for him, which made his injury quite a bit different than that of Albers or fellow injured arm Troy Patton. But given that the tear is in virtually the same spot, he can identify with both of them. The rehab program wasn't particularly strenuous, consisting mainly of throwing the ball under close supervision.
"It was just a long-toss program," he said. "The similarity [between our injuries] is that sometimes it's non-symptomatic. And Matt has to find out if it is. I think by resting it and then starting his long-toss program will give him an idea. If he feels it all the way through the program, then it's probably going to be a problem. But for me, it wasn't."
If the rehab works for Albers, he can avoid surgery and possibly pitch again this season. But if it doesn't, he could miss most or all of next season. Loewen elected to try rehab again with his elbow last season, but ultimately had to undergo surgery, and he credited famed orthopedic surgeron Dr. James Andrews with helping to make his decision as easy as possible.
Albers, who has the same doctor, came to the same conclusion and can hope to have the best possible effect.
"It's a really big decision, but he's got some good information," Loewen said. "I told him my story, and I think Dr. Andrews knows more than anybody in the whole country -- and maybe the whole world -- about arm problems in pitchers. He was the best guy to talk to, and I think Matt probably felt more comfortable after coming out of that meeting with him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.