PHOENIX — “I’m ready.”
And with that, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez proclaimed an end to a long, 14-plus-month journey from Tommy John surgery.
“My heart’s racing — just overwhelmed with excitement,” he said, standing in front of his locker prior to the D-backs series finale against the New York Mets on Sunday.
Officially activated from the 15-day disabled list, Hernandez missed the entire 2014 season.
That year he had complained of elbow soreness in spring training and eventually underwent surgery on March 24.
It marked the first time in three seasons with the D-backs that Hernandez had spent significant time on the sideline.
“Feels amazing; I feel like I’m a part of the team again. I get to compete with these guys,” he said. “They’ve been playing really well, so hopefully I can add to that and get some momentum going.”
Hernandez, 30, made seven scoreless rehab appearances — nine strikeouts, two walks and one hit allowed over six innings — between Single-A Advanced Visalia and Double-A Mobile.
He’s under no restrictions, according to manager Chip Hale.
“Just want to be smart with him,” he said. “I mean he’s pitched back-to-back twice in Double-A, so we know he can do that. Got to be smart … he’s honest about his arm with me and the pitching coaches, so we’ll just go and try to be very careful with him.”
Hernandez, too, will be careful, but he’s long past thoughts of pitching in fear of being re-injured.
“I just never really thought about it, especially when I started getting on the mound,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where you can’t think about it. It’s just something that you can’t control. All I can control is just getting guys out and doing the best to my capabilities.”
Hernandez is one of three D-backs relievers in franchise history to record 60 strikeouts in three straight seasons.
His best season in Sedona red came in 2012 when he went 2-3 with four saves and a 2.50 ERA in 72 games, covering 68.1 innings.
Overall, Hernandez is 12-12 with 17 saves and a 3.42 ERA as a D-back.
“It’s like losing something you love,” he said of being away from the game. “Just kind of heartbroken for a minute, but then you’ve got to move forward. I’ve done everything I can to get to this point, and I’m ready.”
The timing of the activation is perfect.
With the D-backs traveling to San Francisco later this week, Hernandez will be able to see his family.
“You set a goal to when you want to get and then it just seems like that day will never get here,” he said. “It’s been amazing — just being able to go through this process with a few guys around here (Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo) that have gone through that process, so it’s been easier just to ask questions and whatnot.
“I’ve been very thankful that we have a great strength and conditioning staff. They got me to this point.”
Hernandez made his return to the mound at Chase Field in the eighth inning Sunday, striking out one and walking one while not allowing a run in 15 pitches.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) June 7, 2015
The Diamondbacks, however, dropped the series finale 6-3.