PEORIA, Ariz. -- After facing live hitters for the first time in a year, Padres pitcher Casey Kelly stopped to sign a handful of autographs and take a few pictures with fans on Saturday.
He smiled the entire time.
"It's definitely the best day I've had so far," Kelly said.
Kelly, not even 12 months removed from having Tommy John surgery, took a notable step forward when he threw for eight minutes (32 pitches) off a mound and against hitters.
"Getting back on the mound, getting the thought process of being back on the mound, facing hitters ... the good thing about today was I didn't really think about the elbow," Kelly said. "I was thinking about pitching. That's the best thing possible. It's definitely a good step in the right direction."
Depending on how he feels Sunday, Kelly will likely throw live batting practice every five days here with the occasional bullpen session mixed in. Kelly said he could throw between "three and four" more live batting practice sessions before moving into a simulated game or possibly a Minor League game.
To be sure, this was a good start.
"I really wanted to work on locating my fastball with the hitter in there. With the changeup, I'm getting more comfortable with the grip and getting the feel back," he said. "The changeup is a feel pitch for me, so the more I throw it the more comfortable I get."
Kelly -- who had reconstructive surgery on his elbow last April 2 -- is determined to be pitching in real games sometime in April, even if that's in the Minor Leagues on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
"At some point in time, I will be a real baseball player in a real game throwing against hitters," he said, smiling.