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On comeback trail, Beachy eyeing mid-June return

ATLANTA -- When Brandon Beachy celebrates Thanksgiving next week, he will be five months removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and approximately seven months away from being cleared to rejoin Atlanta's rotation.

In one respect, Beachy is thankful that he has distanced himself from the injury that immediately ended a promising season. In another, he is thankful that the past few months have provided him reason to be optimistic about his ability to quickly regain his successful form.

But before getting too excited about what the future might hold, Beachy has come to realize the importance of patience during this long rehab process.

"I can't even tell you what my throwing program will be at the start of any week," Beachy said. "I specifically told [the trainers] not to tell me. Just when I show up, tell me what I have to do that day. That way, I'm not looking ahead, because I know I'll just get anxious and start circling dates on my calendar. All of that can change quickly. I don't want to be disappointed. I'm literally just trying to take it one day at a time."

A little more than a week after the Braves were eliminated from the postseason, Beachy was cleared to throw for the first time since his elbow blew out as he was facing the Orioles on June 16. During the following month, he has played catch from distances of 30, 45 and 90 feet.

Slowly but surely, Beachy has started to regain his arm strength. But he still has a long way to go.

When Beachy threw the ceremonial first pitch before a charity softball event last weekend, the arc of the ball resembled that of a free-throw attempt. But those who have experienced the long journey back from Tommy John surgery would have likely viewed this as simply part of the process.

"They're starting to let me turn it loose," Beachy said. "They're restricting the distance and the quantity. But I get to just go play catch. It's nice. I feel somewhat like an athlete again, for a little bit, three times a week."

If all continues to go well, Beachy will be cleared to begin throwing off a mound again in a couple of months. He will likely increase his activity as Spring Training progresses and continue to aim to be back in the rotation in the middle of June.

Before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Beachy was in the midst of an impressive season. Through 12 starts, he had posted a Major League-leading 2.00 ERA and established himself as one of the game's top young pitchers.

But instead of spending the past five months dwelling on the unfortunate timing of this injury, Beachy has attempted to focus on the confidence that he gained through this successful stretch.

"It's more motivation for the future," Beachy said. "I was having success and still learning. I didn't feel like I am something special here. I never felt like that at all. It's motivation now that I've got to get back to that point. And I can do it."

Whatever happens over the next few months and years, Beachy already has an incredible story. The Braves signed him as an undrafted free agent after seeing him in a college summer league in 2008. Two years later, they converted Beachy from a reliever to a starter as he was pitching for Double-A Mississippi.

Beachy's conversion was successful enough that he made three emergency starts for the Braves as they were in the heart of a playoff race during the final two weeks of the 2010 season. The story continued to improve until this summer.

But five months removed from the surgery, Beachy remains confident that his story can indeed get even better.

"This is just my third year as a starting pitcher in my life," Beachy said. "So I'm still learning a lot. It's a lot to take in. I catch myself picking up on things and thinking, 'How did I get anybody out a few years ago?' I have no idea. So we've got to just keep moving forward."

Atlanta Braves, Brandon Beachy