The Seattle Mariners have been told that if closer David Aardsma responds to hip surgery like the average patient, he'll be ready to pitch for them two weeks into the regular season.
The Mariners see no reason to start considering Aardsma average now.
“I’m going to enjoy not doing the running that first day of camp,” Aardsma joked. “I’ll be getting on my non-resistant bike, working in the pool. I’m going to trust the rehabilitation schedule.”
He should. That schedule, drawn up by his surgeon, had Aardsma riding a stationary bicycle the hour he awoke from surgery Jan. 3.
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“They want you moving, because motion and movement helps,” he said. “They don’t want you immobile. When I woke from anesthesia, they put me on a bike. I told them, ‘You know I just had hip surgery, right?’ It was amazing.”
He’s on crutches, undergoing two rehab sessions a day and – for six hours each night – having his left leg lifted, degree by degree, from a 30-degree angle to 70 degrees.
If his rehab goes as scheduled, he’ll be cleared to lose the crutches a few days before spring training opens Feb. 14 – and he’ll be throwing four weeks after surgery.
From a chair.
“I’ll focus on the arm motion, just throw without using my legs,” Aardsma said. “Then by the time I can throw standing up, my arm will have a little more strength, and will have stayed loose.”
Probably not what most general managers would want to hear this time of year from their closer.
“David had two nice years for us and has gone through something now,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said. “You have to listen to the doctors, and what I’ve been told is it will be a couple of weeks into the season before he’s back.
“That’s the average timeline. Every body responds a little differently. He could come quicker, there could be setbacks. We’ll adjust.”
The Mariners have options – whether Aardsma misses a day, two weeks or more.
Brandon League closed games in Aardsma’s absence late last season, when the team thought Aardsma had a strained oblique. And two young hard-throwing right-handed relievers – Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke – will be in camp trying to become setup men.
“We’ll let things unfold in camp, we’re not going to appoint someone closer,” Zduriencik said.
“I’m optimistic I can be ready for opening day,” Aardsma said. “I just want to be healthy, have a good healthy season. Whatever the timeline is, only my body can tell. I’ll do the work and we’ll see.”
The odd thing about the situation is that had Aardsma had surgery earlier in the offseason, he’d have been ready to pitch in spring training. The pain in his hip, however, almost precisely mirrored the pain he’d had with a far more common injury – a strained oblique muscle.
Aardsma missed the final weeks of 2010, rested an appropriate time for an oblique injury, then started his usual throwing program – and knew something was wrong.
“When I started to throw, that pain was still there, and that didn’t add up,” Aardsma said. “I got checked out, had an MRI, and they found a tear in the labrum of my hip. I might have hurt it more if I’d tried to pitch through it.
“When they went in, they repaired the tear and shaved a bump in the bone, which might have caused the tear.”
“I talked to David before his surgery, about his role and how important he is to us,” Zduriencik said. “He understands he’s falling into that veteran role in the bullpen and on the team, that his presence (is) needed.
Seattle signed veteran Adam Kennedy as a minor league free agent – on the infielder’s 35th birthday – and made him the 15th non-roster player invited to spring training.
A veteran of 12 big league seasons, Kennedy has played with the Cardinals, Angels, A’s and Nationals. He is a career .275 hitter with 170 stolen bases. He played in 135 games with Washington last season, batting .249 with 16 doubles, three home runs, 31 RBI and 14 steals.