Wainwright, Floyd share bond over Tommy John surgery
Braves right-hander set for return to hill a year after surgery to face Cards
ATLANTA -- Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd's phone conversation with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright on April 27, 2013, was nothing out of the ordinary. Floyd was set to start for the White Sox that night against the Rays at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
The two pitchers do not know each other particularly well, but a mutual friend serves as a financial advisor and a life mentor for the two veteran right-handers. Thus, the two occasionally talked about their craft.
"Gavin and I have a lot in common," Wainwright said.
Following that phone call, the two added another thing in common as Floyd sustained a tear in his flexor tendon in his right elbow, resulting in an unstable ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery on May 7, 2013.
Wainwright went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in early 2011.
"We were talking ball, and then I, that day, it blew out," Floyd said. "I was like, 'Uh oh.' … I just never thought it would happen that day."
One day before the one-year anniversary of his surgery, Floyd returns to a Major League mound for the first time since the injury, as the Braves host the Cardinals on May 6. And yes, Floyd is well aware of the number on the calendar.
"You get excited about the day you're going to be able to go back out there," Floyd said. "This has a little bit more extra significance just for the fact that it will be the day before my full year after surgery."
Watching from the visitor dugout will be Wainwright, who cannot wait to see Floyd back in action. Wainwright said he heard Floyd was "throwing rockets" and believes that Tuesday's start is just the beginning for Atlanta's right-hander.
"He's a big, strong guy that's got great stuff and really has yet to come of his age," Wainwright said. "I think he's got great poise, great stuff and when he puts that all together, I think he's got an All-Star-caliber arm."
Wainwright's vision for Floyd was something the latter could not even imagine early in his rehabilitation process. "Certain sorenesses" made Floyd nervous at first.
"The hardest part was probably the beginning, just not knowing whether I was going to play baseball again," Floyd said.
Fortunately, Floyd had Wainwright, who shared what he learned during his own experience returning from Tommy John surgery. Wainwright dealt with inconsistent velocity and break on his pitches during his comeback season in 2012.
"My stuff didn't return for a while," Wainwright said. "It did in short stints in spring and as I got extended out, my arm was just very taxed and I didn't have great stuff, so I had to find a new way to get outs that year and just really learned a lot about pitching that season, so in the process of his rehab, he's going to learn about himself and pitching and how to get through games when he doesn't have his best stuff, and that teaches you a lot about yourself and how to be a pro."
Wainwright returned to form last season, compiling a 19-9 record and a 2.94 ERA as he earned an All-Star nod, finished second in voting for the National League Cy Young Award voting and helped pitch the Cardinals to a World Series appearance.
Atlanta's plan for Floyd moving forward is unclear. The Braves will likely utilize him as a bullpen arm who would be available to make occasional spot starts. As such, he may not reach the heights Wainwright has achieved in his post-Tommy John chapter.
But Floyd is simply happy he has earned the chance to get back on the mound and continue his big league career.
"So far, it's been a success story as far as the surgery and how things have gone and how I've recovered from this," Floyd said. "I'm excited and thankful to be able to be one of those stories."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.