CLEVELAND — Orioles right-hander Yovani Gallardo took a significant step in his return from right shoulder tendinitis, facing live hitting for the first time in more than a month as he threw a three-inning simulated game before the Orioles' game Saturday in Cleveland.
Gallardo, who last pitched April 22 in Kansas City before going on the disabled list, threw all of his pitches – his fastball, changeup, cutter and curveball – during his 45-pitch outing.
"I feel good," Gallardo said. "The most important thing is, [my pitches have] that life. The fastball, my fastball and breaking stuff is late in the zone. That's very important. Commandwise, it's getting there. I think, just a couple of good quality pitches, and then it gets away from you for a little bit. The most important thing is I'm able to make the adjustment, which I think is huge. I think it's a matter of getting that pitch count up, to be honest. It's one of those things. It's going to be key and it's all going to depend on how I'm able to recover each and every time that I throw."
Gallardo will now have a work day on either Monday or Tuesday and if that goes well, he is slated to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday with high Class-A Frederick against the Potomac Nationals. He would be scheduled to go four innings (about 60 pitches).
"It's encouraging," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We're trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. That's about as far as I'm going to go, but we've got a plan if everything goes well. We'll see. … It went well. … He got a little tired at the end, which you can expect. The arm swing was good. You can tell by the smile on his face that he felt good about it."
On Saturday, Gallardo threw three 15-pitch innings, then sat down to simulate a break between innings.
"I think that's a big factor when you're in a ballgame, just being able to go out there and throw 'X' number of pitches and then coming in and sitting down and resting for however long," Gallardo said. "Just up and down, I think it's very important just as getting the pitch count up and myself being able to go out there and throwing 45 pitches for the first time out is pretty good, pretty important."
Orioles infielder Paul Janish – who was one of the three hitters Gallardo faced in Saturday's simulated game – said Gallardo was impressive.
"Honestly, I thought he looked pretty sharp," said Janish, who faced Gallardo as an opponent in the National League. "… He looked like he was throwing freely. He wasn't apprehensive in any way, so for all intents and purposes, I thought he looked about as good as you could hope for. He took his breaks and at the conclusion it still seemed like his body felt pretty good. He wasn't too taxed or anything. In terms of sim games, I think it went about as good as it could, and I think he felt good. For us, I think it was about as good a sign as we could hope for."
Gallardo also faced first-base coach Wayne Kirby and coach Einar Diaz during the simulated game.
"I think I stood in for four simulated at-bats, so I saw all of his pitches," Janish said. "Everything was crisp and he seemed to have good control of everything, which I think is another indication that he's not having any kind of tweaks or discomfort. I think control would be the first thing to go, so he looked good. Best way to say it is he looked good."
Gallardo, who struggled to a 7.00 ERA in four starts before going on the DL, spent the first three weeks of his recovery strengthening his shoulder, and he said Saturday, he could tell his arm was stronger than it was when he began the season.
"It feels very good, actually," Gallardo said. "Every pitch that I throw feels like it's coming out with that life, late in the zone, right before it gets to the hitter. You can just feel the difference coming out of my hand. One of those things that I've noticed is the cutter, it has that tight spin, tight rotation, that late move instead of coming out of my hand early kind of just spinning, you know what I mean? I think those are the main two factors that I can tell, that I can actually notice a big difference. I'm able to get through the ball, get through the ball and get that full extension which gives me that life the last, whatever it is, before it gets to the hitter."