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Padres exercising patience with Capps

Right-hander is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last March
MLB.com @boomskie

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carter Capps just celebrated an anniversary of sorts. It was one year ago on Thursday that he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The injury confounded Capps. He arrived at Marlins camp last spring already identified as the team's closer. That obviously wasn't to be.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carter Capps just celebrated an anniversary of sorts. It was one year ago on Thursday that he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The injury confounded Capps. He arrived at Marlins camp last spring already identified as the team's closer. That obviously wasn't to be.

Now Capps is in Padres camp building back arm strength and innings on the Minor League side. The closer job for the big league club is wide open. There's no candidate with closing experience on the roster, including Capps, who doesn't have a save in his 118 Major League appearances.

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Capps will make another Minor League appearance on Friday. That's the end of his current program, he told MLB.com on Thursday.

"Hopefully it will be my spring debut after that, I guess," Capps said.

There are plenty of Cactus League games left. The Padres have 21 remaining after Thursday's game against the Brewers.

But San Diego has no plans to rush Capps into a season that looks like it will be developmental for the club. He's 26 years old and under contract this season for just under $1 million.

Padres manager Andy Green wouldn't guarantee that Capps will pitch this spring, saying he's "hopeful at this point in time, but not going to say he definitely will," which means by Opening Day, Capps might not even be on the 25-man roster.

"We're going to take our time with Carter," Green said on Thursday. "Carter is inclined to get on the mound and go. He's literally 12 months from surgery now. I appreciate that from him. He wants to be ready by Opening Day. We want to make sure he's ready for the entire season."

As far as closing is concerned, Green said, "As the season unfolds, Carter has every opportunity to close games for us."

Recovery time from Tommy John surgery is usually 12-18 months, and Dr. James Andrews, the foremost independent surgeon in the field, said 50 percent of patients suffer the injury again. To avoid that, he recommends taking as much of the maximum time to recover before returning to game action. Capps is obviously well short of that.

Andrews, who conducted Capps' surgery, usually takes a ligament out of the opposite wrist or leg and uses it to replace the damaged ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. That repaired ligament is not meant to take the stress of throwing a baseball, which is why many need the surgery again.

Of course, Capps is a reliever and not a starter. A closer normally throws one inning and about 20 pitches instead of 100. Those 20 pitches are thrown at max effort, though.

There are numerous instances of starters having to undergo Tommy John surgery again. A couple of closers have been forced to undergo the surgery multiple times, as well. Former Giants closer Brian Wilson and Royals reliever Joakim Soria have had it twice.

Capps certainly doesn't want to be a two-time victim. He's worked too hard the last year to make it back.

"To say the least, it's frustrating every time you get injured," Capps said. "I definitely feel like I missed some opportunities in Miami. Obviously you live and you learn, and you just stay healthy. You hope for the best."

The Padres are taking the best course of action with Capps. Green said the club is exercising "wisdom and restraint."

"Our thinking and his thinking, we're trying to align those right now," Green said. "We appreciate his desire to be on the field quickly, but we're going to continue to monitor every single step and make decisions after those steps are made."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

San Diego Padres, Carter Capps