Finally recovered from hand surgery, Healy made his Cactus League debut on Saturday, notching an RBI double.
PEORIA, Ariz. — By nature, baseball players tend not to be morning people. The preponderance of night games throughout the regular season can make the early wake-ups in spring training, a frustrating, bleary-eyed ordeal.
But for Ryon Healy, there was no issue arising from his slumber on Saturday morning. He was awake early and ready to go — giddiness and excitement filled his body.
He was going to get to play baseball in a real game today.
Well, it was sort of real game — a Cactus League game vs. the Los Angeles Angels at Peoria Stadium. But given that he’s spent his spring recovering from an unexpected hand surgery while being forced to be a spectator in previous springs, well, this was pretty damn important.
“Wow, like a kid in the candy store,” he said. “That was special. It was a lot fun.”
Healy is a bundle of high energy on most days. Manager Scott Servais knew that the level would be raised for Healy in his debut.
“High energy might be an understatement,” Servais said “I think he’s one of those guys that has about six cups of coffee before he comes to work every day. He’s really wired up and ready to go. I think the longer he plays and gets settled in with our group, that will calm down a little. He’s just anxious.”
Healy didn’t waste any time in his first game action of the spring. He hit hard one-hopper on the second pitch of his first at-bat, which was misplayed, allowing him to reach on the error.
“To be honest, I don’t know if I saw that first pitch,” he said. “I was trying to time it up and all sudden the catcher caught it, and I thought, ‘man, I need to get ready a little bit sooner.'”
He notched his first hit of the spring in his second at-bat, roping a double into the left field corner to drive in a run. He struck out in his third at-bat, which ended his day.
“I feel like obviously there’s a little bit of ways to go, but Day 1 to be able to go out and put some good swings on good pitches, it’s a great platform to be able to build off of,” he said.
When the decision was made for Healy to have surgery to remove a bone spur from his right hand just days before the first official workout, the Mariners didn’t think expect him to be ready for opening day. But with 10 days left in spring, it seems as though he’ll be on the opening day roster. Still, one at-bat or one game won’t get back all the time missed. It’s something he’s forcing himself to remember.
“Control the little things, pitch-by-pitch and at-bat by at-bat,” he said. “I know where I’m trying to get, but for me the process is very important especially coming back from where I was at. I still have a ways to go, but I’m excited to finally take this first step forward. It’s a big deal to go out and compete with these guys.”
Can Healy be ready to perform at an expected level with limited spring training game action or does he need rehab stint to get more at-bats? Servais won’t play Healy every day to try and force the situation.
“We have to be careful,” he said. ” You can’t just ramp it up and go nine innings the next day and get all these at-bats. He hasn’t had Spring Training. He’s been working his tail off defensively and certainly is ready to go there, but we have to be careful and space it out a little. He will need an off day here at some point and go from there.”
Healy will trust their decision.
“Obviously only time will tell, but I think I’m set up for success with this coaching staff and the way they’ve structured my plan,” he said. “Getting three at-bats today was huge. There’ll definitely be a couple days I go to the Minor League side and try to get 8-10 at-bats in a day and ramp it up as this gets better. I feel there’s time to be able to do this. I’ll just wait and see.”
The big thing is that there is a no lingering pain in his repaired hand.
“I really feel like everything the doctors have said and the training staff have said has been spot on,” he said. “Obviously it was a little ‘gunky’ when I first started hitting. We adjusted my treatment a little bit and went back to that. For me, I’ve been pain free for the last five or six days. Now it’s about amping up the intensity in the cages and taking it out to the field to make sure I refine what I’m working on.”
But it wasn’t just about the physical recovery for Healy. There was some psychological healing needed, understanding that his hand was really healed and he shouldn’t worry about pain or reinjuring it when he swung the bat hard.
“This is my first injury — knock on wood — and hopefully the last for a while,” he said. “But it’s something you mentally have to fight — not knowing if you are ever going to not have pain there again. That first day for me that I really hit without pain, it was very emotional. I went home and called my family, my girlfriend, everyone. I was really excited. Obviously, it wasn’t an end goal by no means, but it was something I was waiting to feel and something I finally did and I was excited to move forward from it.”
And he wants to continue moving forward away from the injury.
“I will be in the training before and after every game,” he said, “to make sure this is not a reoccurring theme.”