When the Padres acquired reliever Carter Capps a little over a year ago, the hopes were that he would come to Spring Training healthy enough to compete for a bullpen role after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in March of 2015. His rehab appeared to be on track, as he pitched successfully this March, but the team took the conservative approach with the hard-throwing righty, slowly working through several little bumps along the way. After several brief shutdowns and setbacks, Capps is finally ready to make his return to the bigs:
Today is Carter Capps' birthday. His present: 2+ years after sustaining his elbow injury, he's joined the Padres in Cincinnati.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) August 7, 2017
When Carter Capps last pitched in the majors, his hop-skip-and-a-jump delivery combined with near-triple-digits velocity to make him one of the most dominating relievers in the game. The extension that his unorthodox motion provided let him release the ball closer to the plate than any other pitcher in the game, which made his heat appear even hotter to the hitter, as his “perceived velocity” was second only to Aroldis Chapman. Throughout his rehab, his velocity hasn’t touched the high-90’s that he had before his surgery, but it’s still hot and his wipeout slider is back with a vengeance. In 24 games with the El Paso Chihuahuas, he posted an ERA of 2.81 with 28 strikeouts in 25-2/3 innings with nine walks, but only one of those walks came in his final fourteen (!) appearances. Now he gets to take the final step in the process, as he makes his long-awaited return to the game’s highest level.
There will be plenty of chatter about his delivery. The way he launches himself forward of the rubber before releasing the ball is certainly unusual, but it’s been ruled that as long as he doesn’t re-plant his back foot, it’s legal. This has been a focus in his rehab, even resulting in an ejection when a PCL umpire ruled his delivery as illegal. He’s grown accustomed to the scrutiny. He should expect his foot to get plenty of camera time when he makes his debut, and hopefully he’ll be dragging the foot to set the critics to rest.
With Brandon Maurer now on the Royals’ roster and Brad Hand surrounded by trade rumors, a return to form from Carter Capps could stabilize the back end of the Padres’ bullpen for the coming years. While this is one small step for Capps’ rehab, it may be one giant leap for the Padres’ bullpen.