BALTIMORE -- Danys Baez made an eventful return to the mound Wednesday night, when he pitched two innings and completed his year-long recovery from ligament replacement surgery on his pitching elbow. Baez, a right-hander, said he was never really sure how he'd feel and whether all of his stuff would come back with him.
"I feel strong," he said Thursday. "My big concern was about throwing strikes, and I did very good. I feel healthy, I feel strong. My big concern right now is command of my pitches and being able to throw a pitch whenever I want and have good location. That's the thing I've been working on in the bullpen. But health-wise, I'm perfect."
Just that, in and of itself, was a rousing success for Baez. The veteran hadn't pitched since September 2007, and his Spring Training comeback was plagued with odd bits of progress and regression. Baez went from competing for a rotation slot to sliding back to relief work and wondering how he'd hold up.
As of now, his main concern is how his arm will hold up to pitching multiple times a week. The Orioles have told him that they'll work with him and only use him when he's comfortable, and Baez has said that he'd like a day or two off between outings. So far, manager Dave Trembley is more than willing to comply.
"I wouldn't pitch him today," said Trembley. "I wouldn't pitch him on back-to-back days early in the year. We talked about that in Spring Training when I told him that he wasn't going to be a starter, that he was going to go into the bullpen. We talked about not going back-to-back days and a variety of different things."
Baez saw his velocity return to pre-injury levels on Wednesday night, and he used his split-finger fastball with dominant effect. The Cuba native faced six hitters and retired them all, giving himself a shot of confidence. Now, Baez knows that he can get back on the mound without worrying how his arm will hold up.
"Facing the Yankees and facing Major League hitters is a challenge," he said. "They're Major League hitters for a reason. If you make a couple mistakes, you can be in trouble in a couple minutes. For me it was hard, but after the first pitch, everything went back to normal and I was ready to do what I know I can do."
Baez, a former closer, said that the rehabilitation from his elbow surgery was far more strenuous than he had ever imagined. And now that he's back, he doesn't have to worry about his role. Trembley knows it's way too early to talk about switching anyone's role, but he did allow that Baez gave him something to consider.
"We'll use him according to the game situation," Trembley said. "I mean, the way he pitched last night, he could pitch the eighth inning. He could set it up for George [Sherrill]. ... He told me he'd tell me how he feels as he gets into it. I just hope he continues to throw like he did last night, because he gives us another weapon."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.