It's been good to finally be back on the field doing what I love -- pitching.

I missed all of last season and the first couple months of this season due to an elbow injury. It required a lot of hard work and rehab following surgery to return, but it was all worthwhile.

It's easy to take the game for granted. It comes naturally for most of the guys at this level and you don't realize how good it is until it's taken away from you. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pitch again before the surgery.

Now, every day that I step out on the field is a day I feel blessed. I'm confident in saying that I feel 100 percent physically now.

Thinking back to a few months ago, I thought I was ready to come back at the start of this season. I felt good out on the mound and was throwing well. But it didn't last long. I had some stiffness in my neck and soreness in my elbow, which told me that I wasn't 100 percent. That made me work even harder in my rehab sessions.

When I first returned in June, I didn't feel like my breaking ball was working like I wanted it to. I really had to work on getting my breaking ball back into form. Now I think I'm where I want to be with the breaking ball. I've also got the slider working as well as my new pitch -- the changeup.

While my numbers look comparable to before the injury, I haven't really paid attention to stats this year. I wasn't expecting to come back and throw one shutout inning after another. My goal was to get back in the groove and hopefully help my team win some games.

The rest of the season, I really want to focus on my location. When I work down in the corners is when I'm at my best. I want to make good pitches and when I do that, I'll get those batters out.

Luis Ayala returned to Washington in late June after he missed all of the 2006 season due to reconstructive surgery on his elbow. The 29-year-old right-hander from Mexico has a 2.78 career ERA over 248 games with Montreal and Washington.