03/24/09 7:35 PM ET
Gordon pleased with first 'pen session
D-backs reliever didn't expect to feel as good as he did throwing
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
No matter what you want to call him, Tom Gordon finally made it back to a pitching mound Tuesday, and the veteran right-hander and his new team had a lot to be happy about.
Gordon, whose doctors told him that his recovery from 2008 elbow surgery was nothing short of miraculous, threw a bullpen session for the first time in a D-backs uniform and the first time since a rehab appearance at Class A Clearwater last July while a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
At the age of 41, Gordon said he has been pitching without pain in his right arm for the first time in years. He took advantage of it Tuesday, throwing everything in his repertoire -- fastball, two different curveballs, cutter and sinker -- in a 26-pitch session that left him confident, if not a little bit stunned.
"The first pitch I threw today kind of shocked me," said Gordon, who signed a roster-bonus-laden one-year deal with Arizona in early February after going 5-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 34 games for the Phillies last season.
"I expected to feel good, but not that good. ... I couldn't back off after that first pitch. I didn't know how to back off."
Gordon last appeared in a game on July 5 before being shut down and having a procedure called ulnar-nerve decompression to avoid the ligament replacement procedure known as Tommy John surgery.
He had been slowly working his way back into shape here, throwing off flat ground from 150 feet and 60 feet with "no discomfort," and he said he threw at about 75 percent Tuesday and was able to string together four straight curveballs a couple of times within the session, a sure sign that he is healthy once again.
"My mechanics are fine, my arm slot is fine, and the ball felt really good coming out of my hand," he said.
The plan for now is for Gordon to throw another bullpen session Friday and try to continue to keep progressing. D-backs manager Bob Melvin said he'll continue to take a wait-and-see approach with no concrete idea or plan for when Gordon would be ready for Major League action but that he liked what he saw Tuesday. A lot.
"I was very encouraged," Melvin said. "He threw all his pitches and it looked like he had a lot of life on the ball. It's a great first step. He's going to be very important for us this year."
If Gordon can return to what he was when he was healthy, the D-backs would have a steal of an acquisition. Gordon, who broke into the big leagues as a starter for the Kansas City Royals in 1988 and was a teammate of Melvin's there in 1992, is a three-time All-Star closer with 159 career saves.
He also has excelled in a setup role. In his last full healthy season in the Majors, with the Yankees in 2005, he went 5-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.
He said he's looking forward to seeing where his now-healthy right elbow can take him in 2009, and Tuesday was a big step.
"Today was the first day I was on the mound for a while, and I wasn't sure how I was going to do," Gordon said. "But I have a really good feel for what I'm doing. ... It's been a long time since it felt this good.
"[To come from] not being able to brush your hair or your teeth [to now], thank God I'm on the mend."
Doug Miller is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.