Capuano Still on Long Road to Recovery

Chris Capuano has had Tommy John surgery before.  The first time around, his big league career was in jeopardy before it even really started, going under the knife in May 2002 before he had an opportunity to pitch in a major league game.  Like so many pitchers before him, he came back from the surgery stronger than ever.  He put together a respectable rookie campaign for Arizona in 2003 before being included in the mammoth Richie Sexson trade that winter as one of the centerpieces of the deal, along with Jorge de la Rosa.

We know the story from there — Cappy was arguably the Brewers’ most consistent starting pitcher from 2004 to 2006, winning a career-high 18 games in 2005 and making the All-Star team in 2006.  The 2007 season was a struggle, and during spring training in 2008 it was revealed that the deceptive lefty needed a second Tommy John surgery.

The recovery process has been much tougher the second time around, which was probably to be expected now that he’s on the other side of 30. 


After missing the entire 2008 season, the Brewers non-tendered Capuano
last offseason before bringing him back on a one-year minor league
contract.  After not being able to throw for the first half of the
season, Capuano made a few appearances for the Brewers’ rookie league
team in Arizona.  As Tom Haudricourt noted yesterday, Capuano’s next rehab assignment will be with the other rookie league club in Helena.

There
was hope — albeit a very small glimmer — that Capuano would be able
to contribute to the big league club in September this year.  That was
before Capuano suffered a setback or two and was unable to start
throwing as early as he had hoped.  It seems like Capuano may end the
season with the Helena club, throwing an inning here and there in an
effort to continue building arm strength.  The Brewers will again have
to make a decision about Capuano’s future — do they release him and
look for pitching depth elsewhere, or does the organization (already
strapped for affordable starting pitching) bring him back on another
minor league deal?

If they do bring him back, it seems likely
that he’ll start the season in the minors again.  Ideally, you could
start him in Double A Huntsville, with eyes on a quick promotion to
Nashville if everything goes well.  From there, perhaps Capuano could
make a triumphant return to Milwaukee in June or July.

Obviously
the Brewers shouldn’t hitch all their hopes of improving next year’s
rotation to the Capuano wagon, but if he can continue improving and
make an appearance with the big league club in 2010, it would mark huge
successes for both the Brewers and Capuano.  It probably wouldn’t be
realistic to expect Capuano to return to his old post as a very solid
#2 or great #3 starter, but at the very least he’d represent a huge
improvement at the bottom of the rotation. 

Here’s to hoping
that Capuano continues to improve and work himself back into big league
shape.  We’ve seen a lot of the players who brought us excitement
during the lean years — Bill Hall, Derrick Turnbow, Ben Sheets —
leave the team on pretty bad terms in one way or another.  It would be
nice if one of those players was able to rebound and get back in the
good graces of Milwaukee.  By all accounts, Capuano is an incredibly
nice guy and a great teammate (my personal favorite story being the
in-depth conversations he’d have with Tomo Ohka in Japanese).  Here’s
to hoping he can continue to make a full recovery.

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