Byrdak eyes July 1 return to majors

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak, who underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder, is aiming for a July 1 return to the majors.

“If we get any time in June, I think that would be icing on the cake,” said Byrdak, who arrived for a cameo at Mets camp Monday.

Tim Byrdak

Tim Byrdak

#40 RP
New York Mets

2012 STATS

  • GM56
  • W2

  • L2

  • BB18

  • K34

  • ERA4.40

The 39-year-old Byrdak underwent the surgery on Sept. 6.

He re-signed on a minor league contract after serving as the primary lefty in the Mets bullpen for most of the past two seasons.

He has been throwing on flat ground at 90 feet -- about 15 feet ahead of the post-surgery script for this point of the rehab. He will be at Mets camp for a couple of days to be observed throwing, then return home to Chicago. He plans to be at Mets camp for good Feb. 24 or 25.

Given the roughly year rehab for Johan Santana and Chris Young underwent after the same surgery, doctors initially were skeptical Byrdak could continue his career.

“It was really emotional when I was diagnosed because it was almost like a death sentence -- ‘At your age, we don’t think you can come back,’” Byrdak said. “But the thought process always was, ‘Hey, let’s get it fixed and let’s see where it goes from here and how it bounces back.’”

Byrdak hopes to begin throwing off the slope of a mound by early March and be throwing off the top by the end of spring training, although that may be too ambitious.

Trainer had told him he didn’t see off mound in spring training.

“If I could get off the mound by the end of spring training, I think it would be great,” Byrdak said.

Byrdak suggested his surgery actually was cleaner than Santana and Young’s anterior capsule procedures Byrdak’s muscle ripped off the bone, he said, while the others suffered tears in the muscle itself.

“So, it sounds crazy, but all they had to do was reattach it to the bone and that was it,” Byrdak said. “From what Dr. Altchek told me, there was no other damage to the shoulder. He said the shoulder, as a matter of fact, looked great for being a 39-year-old pitcher. There was small fraying in the back he took care of, that he shaved down. And that’s been about it.”

Pedro Feliciano and Byrdak both underwent shoulder surgeries after being used heavily as the primary lefties in the Mets bullpen in recent years. Still, Byrdak said he assigns no blame to the organization.

“You can’t pin it just on my workload here,” Byrdak said. “… This started way back in Houston when I was with [manager] Cecil Cooper. I finally had to go in to him and say, ‘Hey, Coop, you throw me two, three innings here and then give me a day off and then an inning here -- it’s either long or short, it can’t be both. You’re killing me basically.’ And basically at that point he said, ‘You’re a short guy.’

“If you can go ahead and not narrow yourself down into that situational specialist deal and you can get lefties and righties out, it helps a little bit because now you can be in there for a full inning.”