BRADENTON -- In accordance with Thursday's Turn Back the Clock Night at McKechnie Field, the Bradenton Marauders wore the uniforms of the Bradenton Growers, the city's maiden minor-league team that was around from 1919 through 1926.
Public-address announcer Art Ross ditched his microphone for a megaphone and did his announcing while standing near each team's dugout.
And there was no walk-up music or dance songs blasted between innings.
Forgive Hunter Strickland, however, if he chose not to jump back into the past. This time last year, the Marauders' righty spent most of his time at Pirate City working his way back from shoulder surgery.
But there he was Thursday, pitching into the seventh inning and helping Bradenton beat the Fort Myers Miracle 2-1 in 10 innings. Strickland was out of the game by the time Alex Dickerson singled home the winning run with two outs, meaning he didn't get a chance to improve on his record (2-2).
But he did lower his ERA to 3.06. And best of all, he was back on the mound, which is where he wanted to be ever since rotator cuff surgery cost him all of last season.
"It's a blessing. That's the bottom line," Strickland said. "You go out there and do what you can do, and it keeps things in perspective. It could always be worse. As far as last year went, it's definite
ly not something you wish on anybody. But for me personally, I think it made me better -- as a pitcher and as a person."
While the Marauders were charging toward a second straight playoff berth last summer, Strickland, 23, was roughly five miles away at Pirate City. He was close to the team, but far from stepping back on a mound, and underwent surgery in August.
"I would come over here and watch the games and support the team," Strickland said. "But it was tough, coming and watching and knowing you can't play. But that's just the game; there's nothing you can do about that."
Strickland was an 18th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Marauders' parent club, in 2009 as part of a package that sent first baseman Adam LaRoche to Boston.
He opened the 2010 season with low Single-A West Virginia and was called to Bradenton later that year, going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four appearances.
That was the extent of his Marauders' tenure until this year.
"He's doesn't take any day for granted. You can tell," Dickerson said. "He hasn't had a bad game yet in my mind. It's great to play behind him. He's got a great attitude on the mound. I made a mistake (Thursday), and he was the first guy to tell me, 'Hey, don't worry about it. You'll get the next one.'
"He's a great guy to be around."
Strickland attributes the attitude to his injury, the first serious one he suffered, which reminded him how much he loved the game he nearly lost.
"The days get long and you tend to take things for granted," he said. "Just to keep things in perspective, you're definitely blessed to play this game, so you do it as long as you can."
It's been so far, so good this season for Strickland, whose ERA is second-lowest among the team's starters.
And he is enjoying all of it.
"I've just been blessed to be getting outs," Strickland said, "and the team's been making great plays behind me."