San Francisco Giants right-hander Brian Wilson is scheduled to throw Oct. 19 for the first time since Tommy John surgery, and the always-confident closer insists he will be full strength by next year.
"I'd say that I'm way ahead of the game," Wilson said on the field Thursday before a workout. "I don't think that there would be any setbacks. I will be available opening day. I will be 100 per cent at spring training. I don't believe there will be any rehab assignments."
"Unfortunately, I did get hurt in April, but fortunately I did get hurt in April. I have a whole year, so I'd have a regular spring training like everybody else," he said.
'Coming back from Tommy John is 100 per cent hard work. That's all it is.'— Giants closer Brian Wilson
Wilson, the 2010 major league saves leader with 48, spent his third day on the field doing agility drills and light baseball work stopping balls rolled his way. Athletic trainer Dave Groeschner has to keep the energetic Wilson in check at times so the pitcher doesn't do too much too soon.
He underwent reconstructive elbow-ligament replacement surgery April 19, Wilson's second such procedure on his pitching elbow after also having it while in college at LSU in 2003. Dr. James Andrews performed both. He has missed the team's run to its second National League West title in three years.
"Coming back from Tommy John is 100 per cent hard work. That's all it is," Wilson said. "That's all I've ever known and that's all I've ever done. For me, that's easy."
Manager Bruce Bochy said Wilson's progress is encouraging and the pitcher has a good idea what it takes to recover. He did so in just 10 months last time for a surgery that typically takes a year to 18 months.
"He's doing well. Willie's working hard, he's here every day going through his rehab," Bochy said. "I know he's excited about throwing here soon. I know he's going to be excited about spring training, when he will be off the mound at some point. It's good news. It's the second time for him, so he has a good idea what he's going through."
Wilson recorded the final out in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series at Texas to clinch the franchise's first championship since moving West in 1958.
The three-time all-star complained of discomfort in the elbow April 13 and was sent for an MRI exam. Wilson threw 32 pitches at Colorado a day earlier while working on back-to-back days, and had to be checked on once. Groeschner said Wilson felt something in the elbow that day, then told the team a day later.
Wilson finished 6-4 with a 3.11 earned-run average and 36 saves in 57 appearances last season, held out down the stretch as a precaution. He had taken all of the important steps in his rehab this spring, so the injury caught everybody by surprise.
Now, he wants to surprise everyone for how fast he heals and returns.
"It'll be a year. I came back in 10 months my first time, so I already know what's going on with the surgery," Wilson said. "I had full velocity, I was pitching at 10 months. All you do is you stay within the realms of what you're supposed to do, you listen to the rehab co-ordinator, and at the same time if you want to get stronger then you work smarter."
"If you want to bump up the workouts then you do more cardio and stuff like that. Right now, my job is to rehab and also just be a form of entertainment-slash-positive energy in the clubhouse," he said. "That's my role right now, which is more important than my current rehab. It's more important for me to be a teammate first and everything else will just fall into place. Get here early, get a workout in, then go upstairs and make fun of people. That's what we do."
Well, and try to manage that bushy black beard.
And, yes, he plans to keep it. The beard made its debut during that special 2010 season.
"It's not getting tamed. It's like a stallion right now, it's completely wild," Wilson said. "It may look the part of something that's just heinous, but it's working hard, too."