By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It has been a challenging first year as a pro for former Division III Haverford College standout Stephen Ridings.

A 6’8″ right-handed pitcher, Ridings was drafted in the eighth-round by the Chicago Cubs in 2016. But soon after he joined the organization, it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and he went under the knife in August of last year.

These days Ridings is working his way back to full strength with the Cubs squad in the Arizona Rookie League.

“It’s important for me to realize that it’s a rehab progression and that getting back into it after surgery can be a little difficult,” Ridings tells KYW Newsradio about his performance this season. “I think my self-evaluating skills have gotten a little better in that I’m not as critical, I realize that things aren’t always going to be pitch perfect and I just go out there and try and compete.”

So far this season, Ridings has made eight appearances (four starts) for the Arizona League Cubs, and he has a 4.05 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .191 against him. In 13 1/3 innings, Ridings has struck out 15 batters, but he has struggled a bit with his control, walking 14. He talks about traveling the long road back from a major surgery.

“It can get, especially in the early stages, it gets very monotonous,” he says. “I’m here in the off-season when there aren’t a lot of other guys here. It can be pretty lonely, a lot of time by myself. For me, that was probably the most difficult part, just keeping my head up and getting through everything. But once spring training came around and all the guys came back, it got a lot easier. And once I started throwing it made things a lot easier for me.”

In 2016, as a junior at Haverford, Ridings caught the attention of the Cubs by dominating hitters. He went 6-3 in 11 starts with a 2.62 ERA. In 65 1/3 innings, he struck out 87 batters while allowing just 37 hits and he enjoyed his time with the Fords.

“My most recent memory is winning the (Centennial) Conference championship last year,” Ridings says. “[I] couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to do it with.”