Former Padres Prospect Pete Kelich’s TJ Story: The Ups, Downs, And Turnarounds Of Tommy John Rehab

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Pete Kelich (Special Guest Writer, Former MiLB Prospect, visit his site 

My name is Pete Kelich and I am a former minor league pitcher with the San Diego Padres.  I had Tommy John surgery in May of 2014 – and navigated my way to a successful recovery.  My goal is to help others that are going through the same obstacle with insight into my personal experience.  

Check out for more information.  My objective of this blog is to highlight setbacks during Tommy John rehab and the importance of dealing with them in the right way.

The Mental Roller Coaster

The most difficult part of Tommy John rehab is understanding that there WILL BE some bumps along the way.  Unfortunately, TJ surgery has one of the longer and more intricate recovery processes already.  So combined with the inevitable distractions and setbacks, it can really be a difficult rehabilitation to get through mentally and emotionally.  

Part of the reason why it can be such a mental and emotional roller coaster is the fact that as a player, you want to be out on the field doing what you love.  You continue to see your friends or co-workers lacing up their spikes each day and after a while, that gets to be frustrating.  

For me personally, it wasn’t a jealousy issue at all.  It was purely the fact that I wanted to be playing the game I loved.

To put a positive spin on this topic, what sitting out for over a year will do for you is really make you appreciate each and every time you are able to lace them up.

While going through rehab and the early stages of the rehab throwing program, I realized how much I took for granted.  

Even more so, I realized the importance of making each throw count and being smart during throwing sessions.

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Be Ready for Hurdles!

As I stated earlier, while going through the Tommy John rehab there WILL BE setbacks.  These setbacks will not always be major, but they will happen at some point of the rehab.  

Personally, I was a guy that made it back to pitching competitively off the mound at 1 year.  Currently, a 1-year recovery time table is pretty awesome.  With that being said, during my throwing program there were days that I thought my elbow was torn again.

One instance that particularly comes to mind was around the end of month 2 of the throwing program.  At that point, I was out to about 110-120 ft in my long toss, with built in light days for recovery.  

On Monday, I threw long and had a great day.  It was finally the first time that I really felt the ball was coming out of my hand well and had the proper back spin.  I was finishing my throws and really felt similar to my old self again.  Needless to say I was excited and probably had a couple beers that night.

The next day, I was scheduled for a light day.  I had a max of 75 ft with about 25 throws built in to get the blood flowing and recover.  What was supposed to be an easy day of toss ended in about 4 extremely painful throws.  

I was mentally gone.  I walked into the training room at the Padres complex in AZ, threw my glove down, and laid on the trainers table in disgust.  I honestly could not believe what just happened.  I went from being on cloud 9 to the bottom of the barrel in about 24 hours.

Control Your Mindset

Now as I said before, I was mentally and emotionally rattled.  I was laying on the table, thinking of all of the things that could be going on with my elbow.

  • Is it re-torn?
  • Did I over do it yesterday?
  • Did I sleep on it wrong?
  • Is this normal?
  • Did I just ruin my career?

Literally anything and everything that I could negatively think about, I was.  I was totally stunned and could not control it.

Looking back now, I can laugh at myself.  Not because of how I was acting, but the fact that I really thought that I would slide through the surgery with no bumps.  I thought that I was going to have my UCL totally reconstructed with tunnels drilled into my elbow and just float through the rehab.

 If I can make one thing clear for others that are going through the rehab and even more specifically the throwing program, it would be…

“You will be faced with issues that you think are the end of the world, but they are not!  Stick to the plan and keep your spirits up.”

I strongly believe that the mindset of a person has a huge impact on how they feel physically.  Obviously there are some instances where no matter how your thinking, you are hurt and feel hurt.  

What I’m talking about is really understanding that pain during a major surgery rehab is normal.  Keeping your mentality focused and steady allows you to stay in the moment and tackle the task at hand.  It is human nature to look at the big picture for everything, but in a rehab process as long as TJ, you must accomplish small goals to keep progressing.  

With about an average of 1 pitcher a year for each club having Tommy John Surgery, it is only a matter of time before a Starter on your squad will be on the shelf to this injury - and the team will have to withstand the hit on cash to pay him. This is why a lot of organizations in small markets are reluctant to sign Starting Pitchers to big deals on multiple years.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of and their other members***

A big thanks goes out to our Guest Writer Pete Kelich for preparing today’s post.

Pete Kelich -Former MILB Pitcher (SD Padres) ~ Tommy John Recipient

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“My goal is to provide knowledge to others that are in the process of receiving or have previously received Tommy John Surgery.  The surgery and rehabilitation processes can be extremely taxing both mentally and physically.  My hope is that I can give some insight into the total process through my own person experience.”

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Posted on April 22, 2016, in MLB Reports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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