By Alykhan K. Ravjiani | @AlykhanKR
DUNEDIN, Fla. – John Stilson is setting his sights on pitching for the big club this season, one year after he expected to be there.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ third-round pick in 2011 is in the midst of completing his rehabilitation at the team’s minor league complex, having undergone surgery for a torn labrum in his pitching arm last August.
Stilson was sidelined after just 34 innings in 2014 (2-0, 3.18 ERA), in triple-A, and while the right-hander won’t be ready for opening day, his ability to pitch multiple innings and get strikeouts provides the team with flexibility.
“That’s my goal, to be able to get up [to the big leagues] and help out and do whatever they need me to do,” Stilson said, at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Friday. “Throw three, four innings here, or come in and close, whatever they need me to do I’d love to be able to help them do it.”
Injuries are not new to the Texarkana, TX native. The hurler tore his labrum in his final season at Texas A&M. Once expected to be a first-round pick, Stilson described the challenges of the recovery process.
“It’s just you have your ups and your downs, one day I’ll feel outstanding, the next day not so much,” he said. “Now I’m on the upward, just getting better and better, and I’m really excited to get going off the bump and ready for the season.”
The 24-year-old was working towards a potential major league call-up last season in Buffalo, pitching out of the Bison bullpen. Despite being interrupted by injury, Stilson is set on coming back strong.
“I was upset that I had to have the surgery, and I was upset that I didn’t have a chance to take the hill for the team, but it’s part of baseball; injuries are part of baseball,” he said. “It’s [about] how you rebound and how you get back up and go about your business every day.”
Still without an official timetable for game action, Stilson is expected to begin throwing bullpens next week. For now, the former Aggies pitcher eagerly awaits facing live competition.
“I’m chomping at the bit to get back into the game, it’s been almost nine months since I’ve pitched in a game, so I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m excited my shoulder’s making the progress its making, and I can’t wait to get back out there.”