BANGOR, Maine — Bryan Rouleau acutely remembers the play — and the pain.
He was sliding back into second base during a Senior League baseball game against Brewer in July 2011 when his right shoulder — his pitching shoulder — gave out.
“Immediately when I dove I knew that I had dislocated my shoulder,” said Rouleau, then a member of the Bangor Senior League All-Stars, “and I was in so much pain in that moment that when I slid it back into place the pain went away, it was just such a relief.
“I didn’t know until a month later when I got my MRI results that I had actually torn my labrum, and I had surgery September 12, 2011.”
Rouleau has been on the comeback trail ever since.
He went without competitive pitching throughout the 2012 high school and American Legion baseball seasons — though he did earn Legion All-Zone 1 second-team status as a first baseman.
Now a senior at Bangor High School, the right-hander finally is ready to make a full-time return to the mound.
“It was a long rehab period,” said Rouleau. “I was actually able to throw in January , just very lightly at 25 feet out, and then every two weeks I would increase it until by the next summer I was able to throw a couple of bullpen sessions. Now I’m pretty much back to 100 percent.”
Rouleau said he regained confidence in his rehabilitated shoulder while playing in a fall baseball league last year, and now he is anxious to rejoin his high school pitching mates.
“It was hard last year not being in on eight-and-twos (preseason practices for pitchers and catchers) after being there my sophomore year and then watching everybody go out there and whip the ball around when I wasn’t able to do it,” he said.
“I played a lot of first base in high school and Legion, but it wasn’t the same. It’s kind of a helpless feeling being a pitcher and not being able to put in the innings for your team. It’s a bad feeling.”
Rouleau’s return this spring should bolster a Bangor pitching staff anchored by senior Greg Duff and junior Justin Courtney.
“I definitely feel like we were missing something last year when Bryan went down,” said Duff. “Him coming back this year just adds another arm to the pitching staff. I think we’re very deep this year, with a lot of experience and a lot of confidence among the pitchers.”
Duff, Courtney and Rouleau figure to be the primary starters on a Bangor staff that also includes Brendan Moore, Tyler Laplante, Jordan Treadwell, Andrew Hillier, Jacob Birmingham and freshman Trevor Delaite.
“We like to have three starters and then three guys we can depend on to come in,” said Bangor coach Jeff Fahey. “In most years that will get you through the regular season, and by the time you get to the postseason if you have to go deeper than that you’re probably in trouble anyway.
“This year I think we’ll have at least six pitchers, and probably nine, that we’ll feel comfortable with in almost any situation.”
The pitching staff will be backed by an offense led by Rouleau, Moore, Hunter Boyce, Carl Farnham, Parker Sanderson and Anthony Capuano, a University of Maine-bound first baseman-outfielder back for his senior season after spending last year at a Connecticut prep school.
The Rams are coming off a frustrating end to the 2012 season, when they finished atop the Eastern Maine Class A Heal point ratings with a 15-1 record only to be ousted by No. 8 Hampden Academy 3-2 in a regional quarterfinal that lasted 11 innings.
Fahey expects Hampden and defending Class A state champion Messalonskee to be two of the stronger teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A northern division, and he also anticipates his own team maintaining its status near the top of the standings.
“A lot of it depends on the rest of the league,” he said. “I’ve got to believe we’ll be as good as Messalonskee and Hampden because of our pitching depth, and we should be able to score runs.”
And Rouleau, perhaps even more than any of his teammates, is looking forward to the challenge of the season that begins April 17 at Mansfield Stadium against Erskine Academy of South China.
For him the chance to pitch in has been a long time coming.
“The expectation of this team every year is to win the state championship, and I don’t think this year is any different,” he said. “The expectation is there, we just need to perform and work hard to get there.”