Catching up with reliever on the mend

June 22nd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Had he not hurt his right elbow last season, requiring Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out until 2023, Reds reliever Tejay Antone might have been in the All-Star conversation. In 23 appearances last season, Antone had a 2.14 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings before he was injured in August.

Antone was in the Minors when he had the same surgery in April 2017, and he broke into the big leagues in 2020 as both a starter and reliever. Last season, he became the primary reliever for use in any high-leverage situation; he could work multiple innings.

Since camp broke in April, Antone has been rehabilitating at the Reds’ complex in Goodyear, Ariz. During last week’s road trip to Phoenix, where the Reds played the D-backs, Antone joined his teammates in the clubhouse and dugout for the three-game series and also worked out with them. I spoke to Antone about his experience this year. How’s it going? It has to be hard going through this a second time and being out here in Arizona.

Antone: It’s been tough, but it’s been fun at the same time. It’s a really good group of guys out there grinding. It’s been fun getting to know the Minor League guys, and showing them the way, at the same time. I’ve been showing them the Reds' way. Simple things like working hard, respecting the game and showing up on time. I’ve done some competition stuff with them. We had a 30-yard dash the other day. Whoever had the lowest time, I told them I’d give them 50 bucks. It’s been fun to incentivize the guys and work hard and do this whole thing together.

How do you keep yourself from feeling like you’re alone on an island?

Becoming friends with the guys there. So every day you’re showing up to work and you have a group of guys who you can turn to and have fun with and do it with them, instead of doing it by yourself.

What’s it like to be back in a big league clubhouse and reuniting with these guys?

Incredible. It’s kind of like an old spark of life. When the team leaves at the end of Spring Training, it’s tough to watch. You’re like, “Dang, here we go.” But you get back with the guys and it’s what I’ve been working for, and I want to continue to work for it to be back here. It is a little taste of heaven right in the middle of it all. It’s been great to see the guys at this time. It’s going to fuel me going forward.

What are you doing with your throwing?

I’m up to about 120-135 [feet]. It’s been going good. I am really feeling good. Mechanically, I feel as good as I was last season. I still have a lot of fatigue and stuff like that I have to build up through. In terms of how I feel, and how my body is moving, I feel phenomenal.

When can you get back on a mound?

It should be the end of August, somewhere. I should be facing some hitters by the end of September. It sounds like they’re going to let me face some hitters and then shut me down and let me get ready for the season.

When you got back from the first surgery, your goal was to get to 100 mph. When you were injured last year, you said your goal was to get back and throw 101 mph. Is that still a goal you visualize?

Absolutely. In all of my training, I have a goal and I push for it. Going through this, that’s the sexy number -- the 101. I also want to be where I was last year with less effort. Less effort is 94-97 instead of a max effort. That would be a cool accomplishment too -- to be out there pitching more and almost giving less effort and being more mechanically sound to produce those kinds of forces and velocities.