Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Sixteen months, three organizations and two elbow surgeries since Scott Proctor last pitched in a game, he’s on the verge of finally making it back.
The veteran reliever is set to pitch for the Braves on Friday against Detroit, after consecutive days facing hitters in batting practice Monday and Tuesday.
“I tell you, I’m probably not going to sleep much in the next two or three nights,” he said. “It’s going to be fun….”
He smiled and added, “Going to have the jitters there, and the biggest thing is to try to keep it where at least the backstop can catch it. Maybe the catcher can’t, but at least the backstop can knock it down.”
One of the game’s best –- and most-used — setup men in 2006-2007 with the Yankees and Dodgers, Proctor missed all of last season with the Marlins while recovering from ligament-transplant surgery.
The Braves signed him to a one-year contract that pays at a $750,000 prorated rate for time on the major league roster. Braves manager Bobby Cox believes Proctor could be on it as soon as opening day, though a mid-April return seems more likely.
“I’ve always thought he could break [camp] with us,” Cox said of the opening-day possibility. “If he can get out there and his arm is strong, we’ll see how it goes. But we’ll see.”
He said Proctor, 33, could be a big piece of the Braves’ revamped and potentially formidable bullpen.
Proctor had consecutive 83-appearance seasons in 2006-2007, and led the majors with 102-1/3 relief innings in 2006 when he posted a 3.52 ERA with 89 strikeouts.
During the Dodgers’ postseason in October 2008, he had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and shave a bone spur. Proctor expected to be ready for 2009 spring training and signed with Florida.
After setbacks and recurring pain he went under the knife again in May for ligament-transplant surgery, aka “Tommy John surgery.”
Pitchers typically require 12-13 months to return from that, but Proctor is only at 10-1/2 months. A year ago, Braves reliever Peter Moylan made the opening day roster 11 months after Tommy John surgery.
“Each hurdle like this, it’s neat to see how it bounces back,” Proctor said Tuesday, after throwing batting practice against Braves minors leaguers, with Cox and pitching coach Roger McDowell observing.
“I felt really, really good out there today,” he said. “I really didn’t feel anything that would cause me to be concerned about anything. We’ll see how it bounces back tomorrow. But the more I throw, it seems like the better it gets….
“At this point now, with my third surgery [he had another elbow surgery early in his career], the whole mental part of holding back isn’t there. So you just go out there and let it loose and trust that it’s fixed.”