BRADENTON – Exactly one year ago today, Nick Kingham made his final start of the 2015 season for Indianapolis. The results were looking good, with one run on three hits and no walks through five innings. After a strikeout to the leadoff batter in the sixth inning, Kingham threw two more pitches, then left the game with a trainer after feeling pain in his elbow. By the end of the month, he had Tommy John surgery, putting him out for the rest of the season, and for most of the 2016 season.
Today, exactly one year after that final outing, Kingham faced live hitters for the first time. He threw 15 pitches to three hitters in live batting practice, after warming up with 25 pitches in the bullpen.
“Just trying to get the feel of some hitters in there again, and [hitters] putting some swings on it. It was good,” Kingham said of the outing. “Overall, I’m happy with where I’m at. It’s one step down, and on to the next one.”
Kingham was throwing nothing but fastballs today. Next week he will add in the changeup. The week after he will throw all three of his pitches, mixing in the curveball. He’s slated to throw bullpens every Tuesday and live BP every Friday for the next two weeks.
After the next two live BPs, he’s not sure what the schedule looks like, although it will probably include sim games, removing the L-screen from in front of him. The first sim game will be one inning, and from there you can expect him to start building up toward a five-day workload. At that point, he would start pitching in games.
Last year, Jameson Taillon was pitching in games a month after throwing to live hitters for the first time. The Pirates have been incorporating more rest into the Tommy John rehab program this year, so Kingham might not be on the same timeline. However, it’s not out of the question to expect that he could be pitching in extended Spring Training or GCL games by the middle of June.
As for the recovery, Kingham said he felt good after today’s outing.
“Everything feels really good. The usual soreness, fatigue,” Kingham said. “Right now, I feel like the resting is kind of done. I’m just trying to gradually test it, putting more stress on the elbow, and raising the intensity every week.”