Brad Wieck is no stranger to having his spring preparation pushed back by a medical procedure, so he’s taking his recovery from a recent heart ablation in stride. The big lefty returned to Arizona last week after being treated in Chicago for an atrial flutter discovered during a routine pre-camp physical, but he plans to resume light throwing on Monday and told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times he can be ready to go by Opening Day.
“Absolutely, there’s enough time,” Wieck said. “This isn’t going to be the first time I’ve come back from something.”
Heck, this isn’t even the most frightening thing the reliever has come back from. He underwent testicular cancer surgery last January when doctors discovered a tumor during, you guessed it, a physical. Wieck didn’t miss much time and was throwing again by late February, but he struggled with his command early and eventually became expendable in a trade to the Cubs for Carl Edwards Jr.
After a little time in the pitch lab, Wieck honed his newfound knuckle curve in the minors for a while before being called up to Chicago in September. He struck out 18 with four walks in 10 innings and established himself as a legitimate option for 2020. What makes the stellar numbers he posted even better was that he dominated right-handed batters as a southpaw, which is more important than ever with a three-batter minimum in effect.
The issue at this point isn’t with his surgically corrected ticker, but with the vein in his leg that hosted the catheter used in his procedure. Provided that has healed adequately, Wieck should be able to accelerate his throwing program with ease.
“I’ve just got to wait for my vein to heal up and mash on the gas pedal again,” he told Wittenmyer.
We often speak metaphorically about pitchers showing heart or balls when they gut out performances, but those things take on different meaning when describing Wieck. Here’s to hoping those descriptors, along with a few that are slightly less crass, can be used by at least March 26.
Update: Wieck is throwing from 70 feet and has a follow-up with a cardiologist this coming Monday.