Kenzie Fowler’s comeback is under way.
Fowler, the Arizona Wildcats’ fifth-year senior pitcher who redshirted last season while rehabbing from back surgery, has begun individual workouts with the coaches in advance of the opening of fall practice in a couple of weeks.
“She’s moving well,” UA coach Mike Candrea said Tuesday. “I think she’s in a good place, emotionally and physically.”
Fowler was a first-team All-American as a freshman in 2010, leading the Wildcats to the championship series of the Women’s College World Series and beginning to fulfill the extremely high expectations placed upon her after a stellar career at Canyon del Oro High School.
But it has been a series of injuries and setbacks since then, including undergoing a microscopic lumbar discectomy in October.
Fowler’s break from softball, Candrea said, could be rejuvenating.
“She’s a great ballplayer,” he said.
“I hope she gets the fire reignited. Because more than anything her body is feeling good again. First time in three years she has a body that feels healthy.”
Fowler went 35-9 as a freshman with a 1.63 ERA as a freshman when she was mostly healthy. She was a combined 41-18 in the next two years.
There was some chatter during last season that Fowler would return to the team only as a hitter, but she is doing her pitching workouts and that remains the top priority, Candrea said. In any case, Fowler is capable of helping the team as right-handed bat with some pop as a first baseman or designated player.
But the Cats need pitching more than anything. The three returning pitchers — seniors Shelby Babcock and Estela Pinon, and sophomore Nancy Bowling — combined for a 3.90 ERA last season. That mark ranked next-to-last in the Pac-12 as Arizona failed to advance to the World Series for the third consecutive season.
The Wildcats also added freshman Michelle Floyd from San Marino, Calif.
“If we are going to be able to use five pitchers, we don’t have to worry about complete games,” Candrea said. “We can give people different looks. (Fowler) might even end up being a closer for us where she throws two or three innings.”
All that will be determined later. For now, Candrea is just happy to have her back.
“Right now, she’s healthy,” he said. “She can be a big part of us this season.”