PEORIA, Ariz. -- For those who argue six weeks of Spring Training is entirely too long, Padres relief pitcher Joe Thatcher couldn't agree more -- and he's got his reasons.
Thatcher, who hopes to win a job in the bullpen this spring as a left-handed specialist, has been stuck in Peoria each of the last two seasons nursing a sore shoulder after camp has broken and his teammates all have moved on to the regular season.
"It's not much fun staying back here after everyone leaves," Thatcher said Monday.
This spring, Thatcher has his eye on a clean bill of health from the start of camp to the finish, as his surgically repaired left shoulder -- a procedure done last May -- has responded well to early work. On Monday, he threw off a mound for 10 minutes in the bullpen without issue.
"It's important to have a good spring," Thatcher said. "It's a good experience because you really get a feel for what you're trying to do. Hopefully, all that stuff is behind me now."
Thatcher first experienced shoulder soreness in camp in 2010 and made two appearances in March, the last coming on March 19. He was shut down for two weeks and also had a cortisone shot. His shoulder responded well and he was able to join the Padres in April.
Last spring was a different story. His shoulder soreness started early and he had an MRI in March that didn't show any structural damage. But two months later, Thatcher had surgery on his labrum with some cleanup of a frayed rotator cuff.
"We treated it like we did the year before with cortisone shots and rest, and for whatever reason, it didn't respond the way that it did the year before," said Thatcher, noting that he had three cortisone shots last spring.
After a nine-game Minor League rehabilitation stint, Thatcher was reinstated from the disabled list on Aug. 5 and posted a 4.50 ERA in 18 games. He would like nothing more than to break camp with the team and be a part of the Opening Day roster.
Knowing Thatcher has previously had shoulder issues, Padres manager Bud Black said Monday that Thatcher will have his throwing schedule "augmented" some so that he has more days of rest between throwing sessions.
"It makes sense," Black said. "He doesn't need the volume early."