Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Scott Proctor’s recovery from ligament-transplant elbow surgery is so far ahead of schedule, Braves manager Bobby Cox believes the veteran setup man might be ready at the start of the season.
Cox offered that information after watching Proctor’s 50-pitch bullpen session Saturday.
“He’s still on a rehab schedule, but you’d never know it,” Cox said of the right-hander, who missed the 2009 season while recovering from May ‘09 surgery, his second elbow operation in 19 months.
Cox thinks Proctor, who had consecutive 83-appearance seasons in 2006 (Yankees) and 2007 (Yankees, Dodgers), could be ready to compete for a spot in a Braves bullpen that’s loaded with more power arms than in recent seasons.
“He’s going to have plenty of time,” to compete this spring, Cox said. “We’ll get him out there as much as we can…. He’s up to 50 pitches off the mound – hard [pitches]. He’s throwing changeups, stuff like that. He’s maybe two weeks behind.
“If you talk to him, he [says] he’s ready to go.”
Proctor’s situation is similar to Peter Moylan’s a year ago, when the Aussie sidearmer came to camp in the late stages of recovery from May 2008 ligament-transplant surgery, commonly known as Tommy John surgery.
Recovery is typically 12-13 months, but Moylan pitched in spring games and made the opening-day roster 11 months after surgery. He went on to post a 2.84 ERA in a franchise-record 87 appearances.
“[Proctor] is throwing a little harder than Pete was at this time last year,” Cox said.
Proctor, 33, was one of baseball’s best (and most-used) relievers during 2006-2007, posting a 3.58 ERA in 188-2/3 innings in that workhorse stretch. He had a 6.05 ERA in 41 appearances in ‘08 before going on the disabled list for flexor-tendon surgery.
Florida signed him after that season in hopes he’d be ready to pitch in 2009. But after repeated setbacks, he had Tommy John surgery.
The Braves signed him in November to a minor-league deal that pays a prorated portion of $750,000 for time on the major league roster. The contract also includes incentives for appearances, starting at 10 games and increasing to a maximum of $250,000 for 50 games.
If he makes the team as quickly as Cox thinks he might, it could mean the difference between Proctor becoming a free agent after the 2010 season instead of waiting another year.
He’d be eligible for free agency if he’s on the major league roster for all but three or fewer weeks this season.