Reliever Kelley is realistic, expects May return from elbow surgery

Here’s a new one for you.

There’s a Mariners relief pitcher coming back from surgery who started throwing a few days ago. Everything has gone smoothly in his rehab so far and he’s pushing hard to be ready by opening day but – get this – admits that isn’t such a realistic goal.

David Aardsma with his newly repaired left hip? No.

Aardsma has begun his recovery from that operation last Monday and talked with Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune. The odds of being ready for the opener April 1 are a little steeper than first thought because Aardsma’s surgery was more involved than expected, and LaRue writes that Aardsma is likely to miss the first two weeks of the season.

The guy we’re talking about here is someone who could give some much-needed experience to the Mariners’ bullpen when he returns – right-hander Shawn Kelley. He had what the team called “partial” Tommy John ligament surgery Sept. 1 on his right elbow.

“It’s been pretty smooth sailing, really,” Kelley said. “I’ve been conditioning my legs, running and working out the whole time. Week by week I’ve been increasing my workload far as my therapy goes, a lot of tubing exercises, lots of dumbbells. It has continued to progress and there hasn’t been any discomfort or setback.”

With everything going so well, why not think about pushing it to be ready for the opener? Kelley has been through this post-elbow-surgery drill before. He had full Tommy John surgery in 2003 and knows the truest test is the throwing program.

“I would love to push it and be ready for the season,” Kelley said. “But that’s not very realistic or smart. Sometime in May would be a realistic goal for me.

“We don’t know how the throwing progress will go. It may take a few months or it may go rally fast. We’re going to take it slow and not rush it and be patient, do it right and make sure it’s 100 percent when I do come back.”

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