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Kuhl rejoins Bucs, optimistic about rehab

Righty-hander underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, expected out 14-16 months
September 22, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- In the back of his mind, Chad Kuhl knew Tommy John surgery might be the solution to the pain in his right elbow. The initial stages of his recovery went well enough, however, that he remained optimistic over the past two months.But during a flat-ground throwing session at

PITTSBURGH -- In the back of his mind, Chad Kuhl knew Tommy John surgery might be the solution to the pain in his right elbow. The initial stages of his recovery went well enough, however, that he remained optimistic over the past two months.
But during a flat-ground throwing session at Busch Stadium on Sept. 11, Kuhl said he "knew that it was time." His arm didn't feel any worse than it had before, but the pain lingered. He wasn't able to throw his scheduled bullpen session. In that moment, frustrating as it may have been, Kuhl found a kind of peace.
"I had that clarity that this is my next step. I'm ready to attack it," Kuhl said Saturday, his right arm wrapped and in a sling. "Living with the kind of unknown was probably the most annoying part of going through this whole process. Being able to put that aside and know this was the next step and have that clarity was big."
Kuhl had surgery on Wednesday in New York and rejoined the Pirates on Friday at PNC Park, ready to begin the long road back from Tommy John surgery. It will likely be 14 to 16 months before he is ready to pitch in a Major League game again. He will spend most of the offseason at home in Delaware, going through physical therapy.

"Mentally, I don't think it will feel as long because I'm going to go through that offseason of [not throwing] anyway," Kuhl said. "It kind of lines up where I would be at a point of taking a break and recharging the batteries a little bit. This one will just be more focused on rehabbing."
Eventually, Kuhl will report to the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla., to continue his rehabilitation. He'll be reporting to Spring Training earlier than most, and he'll spend all of next season working his way back.
"I'm already looking forward to the challenges," Kuhl said. "I'm already looking forward to getting started."
Jameson Taillon has helped Kuhl, his friend and former roommate, in that regard. Taillon said he enjoyed his Tommy John rehab "in a sick way" and expects the same will be true for Kuhl.
The length of the recovery is intimidating, and the program might often feel tedious. But the steady progression presents new challenges every week, even something as small as squeezing putty -- and that kept Taillon engaged.
"The type of guy he is, there are probably doubts in his mind now about how strong he'll come back and all that," Taillon said. "But with his work ethic, he's going to be good."
Taillon experienced the recovery process in 2014-15 and came out better than ever. Right-handers Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes also went through it as prospects. Reliever Nick Burdi returned this season from Tommy John, too. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle pointed to Taillon, now Pittsburgh's top starter, as an example Kuhl can follow.
"That's the guy you want to talk to," Hurdle said. "It doesn't get much better than that. You look at where he is at right now."
Santana, Cervelli sidelined
Hurdle did not have an update on reliever Edgar Santana (right forearm/elbow discomfort) or catcher Francisco Cervelli (gastrointestinal discomfort) a day after they exited Friday night's game in the sixth inning.

Catcher Jacob Stallings started Saturday's game at PNC Park. Hurdle said the Pirates felt Santana's workload "was in a good place" prior to the injury. Pittsburgh gave the 26-year-old right-hander a week off earlier this month, and he was working on two days' rest Friday night.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.