Chad Kuhl stepped back onto the pitching mound last week in what can be considered an encouraging sign 11 months after Tommy John surgery.
“I’ve been on the mound for a couple weeks now,” said Kuhl, who was back at PNC Park on Monday as part of his recovery.
He said he threw two 25-pitch bullpen sessions in Bradenton, Fla., with more to come.
“(Tuesday) will be my first bullpen here (at PNC Park),” he said. “Super-excited. I feel really good. Just looking forward to what’s next.”
What’s still several months away, Kuhl said, is a return to the Pirates’ pitching staff next season. He said that in the form of a vow.
“One-hundred percent,” he said, referencing his odds of returning in 2020. “I’m going to be ready.”
Kuhl, one of the hardest throwers on the staff, made 61 starts for the Pirates in 2½ seasons, including 16 last season. Dr. David Altchek performed Kuhl’s elbow reconstruction Sept. 20, 2018.
Kuhl said he will be ready to return in spring training next year.
“I should be ready to go in whatever capacity my body tells me,” he said.
He said returning to the clubhouse Monday was therapeutic.
“I feel like a regular ball player again. None of my workouts are modified. It feels like baseball as usual,” he said.
“I realized when I got back up here just how much better you feel in a big-league stadium in a big-league uniform. How much you miss it. The day-to-day grind. The season feels so long when you’re in it. It feels longer when you’re out of it. I look up at the calendar, it’s Aug. 19 and I feel like two years have gone by.”
He said he has spoken by phone to teammate Jameson Taillon, who endured his second Tommy John surgery last week.
“He’s in good spirits,” Kuhl said. “I’m going to be spending a lot of time with him over this next week. He was one of the main guys there for me. I hope I was kind of there for him during this process he went through. It was eerily similar to mine.”