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Chad Luensmann has had to learn the art of patience over the past year and a half.

It's not something he enjoyed all that much.

But now that the junior pitcher is nearly back to full health after Tommy John surgery kept him out for all of last season, he's ready to return to the form that made him the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Maybe more than ready.

"Usually when (a pitcher) comes back for their first live outing (after an injury), we'll clap for them to welcome them back," Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said Tuesday. "When I saw foam out the side of his mouth, he kind of scared me, so I just kind of stayed back and didn't say anything."

Erstad was joking. Maybe. But it showed Luensmann's desire to return and contribute to a team that badly missed his talents last year during a 24-28 season.

Luensmann threw just 15 pitches against live hitters on Friday, but that short time on the mound represented a big step in the 6-foot-4, 237-pound pitcher's road to full health.

"I probably didn't know what was going on for most of those 15 pitches, but I had a blast out there," Luensmann said.

Before undergoing surgery in January 2018, Luensmann was in line to earn a featured role in Nebraska's starting rotation. Those plans were put on the shelf as the Altoona, Pennsylvania, native went through rehab, but the hope is that the Huskers will be able to feature him as more than a reliever. If Luensmann gets his way, he'll be starting on Friday nights when the weather gets warmer.

"I’m ready to get out there, they know that," Luensmann said. "I think Coach Erstad said something like I want to throw 150 pitches the first weekend. I know that won’t happen, but I’m eager to get out there and do whatever I can. I want to set the tone for our team and get out there. Because I’ve been chomping at the bit — it’ll be 18 months (since he last pitched in a game) when it comes opening weekend, and just getting out there to set the tone for our team would be something I would want to do."

Luensmann is just one part of a pitching staff that has been devastated by injuries going all the way back to 2016. But his physical tools could make him a big part, especially if he can stay patient.

"You have to roll with the punches. Last year not a lot of things went our way and not a lot of things went my way with the injury," Luensmann said. "But you just have to learn to roll with those punches and get through them and work through those struggles each and every day, and move forward."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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