GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: Frank Herrmann watched every inning of every game the Indians played last year.
However, he wasn’t watching from his preferred place in the bullpen, but sitting on a couch in a rental in the Arizona desert.
For the majority of the 2013 season, Herrmann had company as he and buddy Josh Tomlin watched their teammates together each night the way some families gather regularly for movie night.
Although Tomlin was seven months ahead of his fellow right-hander’s recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, it helped that Herrmann didn’t have to go it alone. He had someone to talk to. And he had someone to measure the particulars of his recovery against as well.
“Patience isn’t my strong suit,” said Herrmann, who underwent the surgery last March 31. “It would have been a lot different without him here to talk to and hang with. My wife lived and worked in Atlanta at the time. But Josh and his two dogs were out here and it kind of reminded me of my dog back home. So it was just us two and the dogs — a nice little surrogate family.”
When Herrmann first visited the surgeon, he was given a packet of information that included a detailed recovery plan that explained pretty much how he’d feel on a near-weekly basis as he began the long road to recovery.
“Weeks two through four will feel like this, weeks four through five like that,” he remembers reading. “And there’s different benchmarks like when you start playing catch, when you throw off the mound, etc.”
But what helped the most was being able to ask Tomlin, “Hey, I’m a little sore today, is this normal?”
“You see guys with T.J. all the time now,” said Herrmann, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Indians in 2005 and pitched for them parts of the past three seasons. “Guys just throw harder now and everyone seems to have nasty breaking balls. There’s a lot of load on the joints. There’s no surprise that it happens. Everyone’s trying to keep up with the Joneses and sometimes you blow out.
“It’s become such a part of the game. You see teams all the time now signing guys coming off surgery because it’s become so common. It’s an exact science. You know the guy’s got a good chance of getting back to his pre-surgery form. You see a lot of guys go through it, but you also see a lot of guys come back — many stronger than they were.”
Thursday marked 11 and a half months to the day Herrmann had the surgery — and when it takes nearly a year to recover from surgery, guys like Herrmann know the half-month mark to the day.
Last year when the surgery option was first presented to Herrmann as a possibility, former Tribe reliever Rich Hill shared his thoughts of encouragement.
“He said, ‘you know what man, it’s a process, something you go through, but you’ll be fine though. You’ll be stronger at the end of it.’ ’’
Herrmann, 29, remembered the conversation recently and took a second to text Hill to thank him.
“I told him he’s been right every point along the way,” Herrmann said. “I’m glad he encouraged me at a time I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Now, Herrmann is excited as he inches closer and closer to being back on the field with the rest of the Indians. He’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Monday.
“We just keep reiterating to him again and again that it’s a process,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s doing great, but it has to be a buildup to hitters, and a buildup to games. He needs a certain amount of bullpens, so he will be throwing in games a little later. He’s probably stronger than anyone in camp, but there’s a way to do it.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.