THOMASVILLE -- Tough opponents are nothing new for Thomas University pitcher Jared Carter. But for the past year, he's had to face one of the toughest battles in his pitching career -- recovery from Tommy John surgery.

"It's been a long road," said Carter, who injured his right arm during the 2004 season and later underwent surgery.

The surgery entails replacing a ligament in the elbow with a tendon.The timetable for a successful recovery is 12-to-18 months.

"There's no need getting in a rush," Carter said. "We're taking it extremely slow."

Carter, a Thomas County Central graduate, was hoping to pitch in Saturday's AAU game but hasn't been able to work enough in the bullpen, in preparation to pitch in the game.

"The rain we've had has hurt Jared more than anything," said TU coach Mike Lee.

Though the inclement weather has hindered Carter's progress on the mound, it hasn't been an impediment to his positive attitude. Carter has used his time away from the mound in the weight room and out running.

"He's in the best shape of his life," said Lee.

TU trainer Rusty Baker said Carter should be completely 100 percent in August and should be able to pitch in simulated games in possibly two weeks.

The real games for Carter, however, will start in late January when the Night Hawks baseball season begins. Lee is optimistic Carter can return to full strength and be a No. 1 starter for his team.

"I don't want to put pressure on him, but yeah, I'm counting on him," said Lee.

Lee could also be counting on an extra zip on Carter's fastball.

"A positive side is when you come back, you throw harder than you did before you got injured," said Lee. Which means Carter's fastball could register in the mid-90s.

While that is an added incentive, the real bonus for Carter will be to get back on the mound.

"You've got to have a good outlook on it," said Carter. "You can't get down on yourself. And a lot of prayer. That's pretty much the only thing that got me through all that."

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