Paulino enjoying fall colors of his new year-round home
Except this was mid-October in western Missouri, it was 59 degrees under gray skies, and a brisk wind across the stadium parking lot made it seem colder, as Paulino slipped behind the steering wheel of his car. Chilly weather for a guy who was born in the Dominican, grew up in Venezuela and usually winters in Houston.
"My skin is like leather," he said with a smile as his wife, Paola, shivered.
There is a good reason for Paulino to be keeping his family in Kansas City for most of this offseason. He's intent on making an efficient and complete recovery from the elbow reconstruction surgery, aka Tommy John, that he underwent on July 3.
That's why Paulino is spending each morning, five days a week, in the training room at the stadium working with physical therapist Jeff Blum to bring the fastball back to his right arm. Trainers Nick Kenney and Kyle Turner also lend their expertise.
"The staff here is amazing," he said. "I believe in those guys."
Paulino got good news just this week -- he's doing so well that his timetable for beginning to throw a baseball has been advanced to Nov. 21.
"That's like 10 days before I was supposed to be throwing, on Dec. 2, so that means I've improved a lot," he said.
Paulino is intent on returning to the form that, before his elbow woes, enabled him to have a 3-1 record and a 1.67 ERA in seven starts for the Royals. He also racked up 39 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
He was the fourth Royals pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery this year. There also was Joakim Soria on April 3, Blake Wood on May 25 and Danny Duffy on June 13. All are expected to return to the Royals at some point next summer.
"It'll be really nice to see all these guys get back," Paulino said.
Paulino said that the tentative schedule given to him this week anticipates game pitching in a rehabilitation situation by April 1. He hopes to work up to as many as six innings within a month and a half.
"I think I'm going to be OK but I don't want to build up expectations. I want to be careful," he said.
Even so, Paulino can see himself back pitching for the Royals by mid- or late June. If he can do that, it would be less than a year after the surgery.
"But you've got to go one step at a time," he said.
Paulino punched a downtown address into his GPS. He was off to make an appearance for Hispanic Heritage Month at Kansas City's tallest building. KC Power & Light was holding its annual Vista Fiesta, on the ground floor of the 42-story, 624-foot-high building at 1200 Main St. The idea is to raise awareness of Hispanic culture and traditions within the power company.
Representing the Royals' organization, Paulino happily pulled on his No. 59 jersey, addressed the group, answered audience questions and signed autographs for everyone.
Before leaving, he visited an upper floor for views of the city that reached as far as Kauffman Stadium where KCP&L last year installed solar panels in the outfield to provide the largest in-stadium sun-powered system in Major League Baseball.
Afterward, Paulino enjoyed lunch on the Plaza and drove through the beautiful array of colors that autumn brings to Kansas City's trees. After a lifetime of offseasons in warmer climes, this is the first time that he's seeing the leaves change colors.
Although he's away from his Houston home, Paulino is feeling at home in Kansas City.
"The people are very friendly," he said.
There's something else that makes him happy, too, and it's all about his repaired right elbow.
"My arm feels like nothing happened right now," he said.