ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Fed up with being injured and rehabbing more than two thousand kilometres from Toronto, Sergio Santos is preparing to make the final push toward his return from a triceps strain.
"I feel like I'm at a point where we're going to find out one way or the other, you know good or bad, like I don't want to waste any more time," said Santos, who was among a quarter of injured Blue Jays pitchers that dropped by Tropicana Field to visit their teammates. "I want to get healthy. We're going to push it and hopefully it gets there."
Santos last pitched for the Blue Jays on April 13 in Kansas City. It was his second appearance in as many days and it was shortly afterward the pain became too much.
There was a time when Santos, who missed most of last season with shoulder trouble, wondered whether he had another serious injury. The discomfort was close to the elbow and it had him thinking about the possibility of Tommy John Surgery.
"Yeah, I think a little bit, you get a little concerned," said Santos. "As soon as the MRIs came out and they checked out the ulnar nerve and everything and that was fine it kind of put me at ease and made me feel a little better."
He insists his surgically-repaired shoulder is healthy.
"My shoulder feels great and that's what's frustrating," said Santos. "I put so much hard work in last year to get my shoulder feeling good and it feels great now and now this. It's just another stumbling block and (I'm) looking forward to getting back out and joining the team."
Santos has thrown three bullpen sessions, increasing his pitch count from 20 to 30 to 35. He will pitch in two extended spring training games, first on Thursday and then on Saturday, and if his arm responds positively the plan is for Santos to throw in back to back games for class-A Dunedin next week.
Santos expects to move ahead on schedule.
"I mean every bullpen I've had, the following day when I've played catch, it's felt fine, it's felt good," he said. "We're taking steps in the right direction; hopefully it picks up a little quicker."
DUSTIN McGOWAN ON THE HEAVY BALL PROGRAM
When the Blue Jays broke camp, oft-injured right-hander Dustin McGowan seemed to be progressing from his latest shoulder injury.
He'd appeared in a minor league game and even pitched an inning for the Blue Jays, in Grapefruit League action, on March 26.
But he suffered a setback, more pain, and he turned to the weighted ball program by which Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil and Casey Janssen all swear.
"I just wanted to do something different. I knew recovery has been the worst part, so they set up a program that would help recovery and so far it's been awesome. I pitched yesterday, and today, no soreness whatsoever. Been doing it for three weeks now, and it's working pretty well."
The weighted ball program, created by Jamie Evans, is self-explanatory. It can be individually tailored to suit a pitcher's needs. The aim is to promote quicker recovery – of particular interest to McGowan. Another benefit, see Brett Cecil, is an increase in pitch velocity.
UPDATE ON THE "TOMMY JOHNERS"
Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are on schedule as they recover from the Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Drabek expects to be throwing live batting practice in the next week or two. Hutchison is about three weeks away from a live batting practice session.
Drabek reports that reliever Luis Perez, who's also recovering from Tommy John, is ahead of both him and Hutchison.
It's Blue Jays' policy that no pitcher who undergoes the Tommy John procedure be allowed to pitch in a game until at least one year after his surgery date.
Drabek's surgery was June 19, the earliest of the three, and so it will be a while before any of the three return to game competition