PEORIA, Ariz. - Still on crutches after December hip surgery, Mariners closer David Aardsma took his physical Sunday - though he didn't participate in the treadmill phase.
“I won’t miss that,” he joked.
What he will miss is much of spring training and likely the first few weeks of the regular season, as he gets a late start in his comeback. How far behind is he?
“I’ve been cleared to try walking, weight-bearing my own weight, on Wednesday,” Aardsma said. “I’m fortunate to have a manager and team doctors who don’t want me to push it. (Manager) Eric (Wedge) told me, ‘Don’t worry about time. Focus on your health, on how you feel.’”
Last week, Aardsma admitted, he looked ahead on the calendar, trying to determine when, if everything went according to plans, he could take the mound again. On Sunday, he shook his head when asked about that date.
“I’ve come to terms with it,” he said. “If I’m healthy, I know what I can do for this team, but pushing to get an extra two spring games in isn’t as important as being able to pitch in September and October.”
Asked how he might be evaluated in spring, Aardsma laughed.
“It’s tough evaluating relievers in spring training, because we come in late and almost never face more than one big-league hitter who’s still in the lineup,” he said. “I’m not putting Triple-A guys down – they can play the game, too – but I’ve made big-league teams by facing mostly Triple-A hitters in camp.”
Aardsma has tried to keep his arm strong, tried throwing from a chair. It didn’t work well.
“You think I have control problems on a mound? You should have seen me throwing from the sitting position,” Aardsma said. “I was pretty bad.”
So the closer will be patient, and spend the next 10 days or two weeks on crutches in the bullpen watching his teammates try to fill his job. Aardsma knows there are candidates, young and old.
“Brandon League has closed, Chris Ray has closed, and we’ve got young arms like Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke to look at,” he said. “There’s a lot of arms in this clubhouse who could make this team. If it’s up to me, I’ll be ready in April. If I’m not, I’ll have to accept it and be ready as soon as my body allows it.”
TIME TO TALK
Wedge will briefly address pitchers and catchers in a pre-workout meeting today, then let pitching coach Carl Willis take over.
On Saturday, when the full squad has its first workout, he’ll do most of the talking. Willis can’t wait.
“He brings a lot of energy, a lot of confidence,” Willis said. “This will be my 11th season with Eric, and I don’t like following him after he talks. I don’t know what he plans to say, but I can tell you this – when the players take the field there will be something in their eyes.”
The schedule for the first week of camp has been laid out.
The 31 pitchers cleared to pitch – Aardsma and Shawn Kelley are on slower programs – will be split into two groups and throw bullpens every other day.
After three bullpens, all pitchers will get two days off.
Once position players arrive, they’ll take two days of batting practice against coaches before facing pitchers.
“Nobody wants to show up, put on the uniform and then stand in the cage against Felix Hernandez on Day 1,” Wedge said.
Hard to argue.
On the day physicals didn’t begin until 9 a.m., it was a slow-awakening camp, and the first man to show up was – no surprise – Wedge, at 7:15 a.m. ... Among all the pitchers in camp who need to be seen, there’s Rule 5 draftee Jose Flores, the 21-year-old right-hander taken from Cleveland in December. Flores must stay on the major league roster all season or be offered back to the Indians. Why is he here? Flores struck out 51 batters in 42 innings in Single A last season. ... Shortstop Jack Wilson, who lost 101 games to injury last year, lost 12 pounds this winter – he’s down to 184 – and did leg lifts in hopes of easing the strain on his oft-injured hamstrings. “For me, it’s like 2010 never happened,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of us feel that way.” ... Jamey Wright is back in camp after making 28 relief appearances with Seattle last season. He said he told his dad last week if Hernandez had been with a team that scored runs, he might not have lost after the All-Star break. “If he got a one-, two-run lead in a game, it was like he dialed it up a notch,” Wright said. “Felix was unbelievable in the games I saw.”