Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Scott Proctor is ahead of schedule in his return from elbow surgery, and the Braves think the tough-minded setup man could be ready in April.
“I feel great,” said Proctor, 33, less than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery and already throwing full bullpen sessions. “I haven’t felt this good since high school.”
Manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s really coming and just has to build up arm strength. I think his first [game] appearance will be in the middle of March. He’s not far off.”
Proctor was one of the best relievers in baseball when he churned out consecutive 83-appearance seasons in 2006 and 2007. He had a 3.52 ERA with 89 strikeouts in a whopping 102-1/3 innings for manager Joe Torre’s New York Yankees in 2006.
Despite injuring his elbow during 2008 spring training with Torre’s Dodgers, Proctor still made 41 appearances around a midseason stint on the disabled list. He had a 6.82 ERA in 33 games before pain forced him to the DL.
Proctor signed with Florida and hurt his elbow again in 2009 spring training, requiring ligament-transplant surgery that ended his season before it began.
“I came into [Marlins] camp and it was feeling good. But something went wrong,” he said. “And when they went in they found that my ligament — the term [Dr. James] Andrews used was that it was yellow mush. It was pretty much non-existent.
“The way I look at it now, I’ve got a rebuilt engine and a brand-new transmission. So I’m good to go.”
Proctor said he doesn’t regret taking the ball for 188-2/3 innings and 166 appearances in 2006-2007, or pitching in pain in 2008.
“I hoped I took some stress off some other [pitchers] at times, or got them through a hump that they needed,” he said. “Bottom line is just doing what you can for the team.”
Cox said, “He’s strong mentally and physically, boy.”
“You’re paid to pitch,” Proctor said. “That’s what I told Bobby — you’re paid to pitch. You’re paid to take the ball. It was a fun time. I don’t regret one thing. Like I’ve said, I might regret some things I’ve done maybe off the field, but not anything on the field.”
Proctor is a recovering alcoholic who went public last year with the story of his struggles with booze.
It typically takes 12-13 months for pitchers to return from Tommy John surgery. He’s ahead of schedule, just like Braves sidearmer Peter Moylan at this point last spring traing. Moylan had Tommy John surgery in May 2008.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what Proctor does,” said Moylan, who’s talked plenty with him. “He works as hard as anyone I’ve seen, and he’s got great stuff. I think he’s on a mission to try and make this club.
“I don’t know what they’ve got planned for him, but history shows that I came back a tad early last year. I think if he can get the games under his belt early then it’s going to help us in the long run, rather than him coming in May or June and starting fresh from there.”