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Good news, everyone: Nick Tropeano is officially throwing again

NiTro is the latest 2016 UCL casualty to hit the road to recovery. That’s great news, but it also highlights the importance of Garrett Richards’ stem cell therapy option.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Nick Tropeano had a pretty good weekend. Well, that’s my assumption, anyway. I’ve got no special knowlege or inside info, either; don’t know what he did, who was with, etc. I know of just one solitary activity that was done by NiTro, and that’s all I need to make the “pretty good weekend” claim: He threw a baseball.

You probably remember last July, when Tropeano was up with the big league club and locked into the starting rotation. He was pitching pretty well, too. Definitely earning his keep, although to be fair, it’s not like the Halos had a ton of options last year, anyway. They’d already lost Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards hit the DL with UCL problems, so having someone like Tropeano be able to step up was huge.

Tropeano’s time in the spotlight was short-lived, however. In July, after a few starts where he had some lingering elbow pain, it was announced that he was the latest UCL casualty that the Angels would have to deal with. It’s still somewhat unbelievable to think that the team lost that many starting pitchers in one season, but it happened. It was all too real.

But let’s focus on the here and now, and the good news we heard yesterday. Yep, Nick Tropeano threw a baseball for the first time since getting his ligament fixed back in August ‘16, and while there’s still a long rehab road ahead, NiTro is understandably in good spirits:

“Just to flick a ball like that,” Tropeano said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited.”

“I was preparing myself for this day, just to get this check mark, to be ready, to be prepared,” Tropeano said. “It’s good. It’s reassuring. It’s obviously a good feeling when you’re waiting that long. It’s just one of those big steps, one of many, to get back to where I want to be.”

Here’s hoping that Tropeano has no setbacks in his recovery, and he can get back to helping the Halos win some ball games as soon as possible. Of course, that probably means we’re looking at 2018 as his return date. I suppose if the Angels managed to make the playoffs, that he may be ready by the time October rolls around, but that’s stretching the bounds of believable rehab timetables. No rush, NiTro.

There are two things about this story that stick out to me now, with a little hindsight on the whole UCL fiasco of 2016:

1) Tropeano said he’d been feeling sore for the better part of the month of June, including his two starts prior to his last one, where he got pulled after just a couple innings and the rest is Tommy John history. Hopefully this is the type of thing that will no longer happen, now that the Angels are trying to implement some new injury protocols and preventative measures.

It’s scary to think that NiTro was already having some issues, yet he was getting trotted out there to the mound for some starts. We can only hope that losing THREE starters in one season has truly frightened them into being more careful and cautious regarding players’ health.

2) Tropeano got his ligament replaced in August, and here it is in late March and he’s JUST NOW beginning to throw baseballs around. Think of that recovery time, and then contrast it with Garrett Richards’ road back. Richards didn’t go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. Instead, he made headlines by utilizing stem cell therapy, and avoided surgery altogether.

Richards was already throwing baseballs around back in August, and he’s been back on the mound this spring and he’ll be on the mound for the Angels come April. That is why his stem cell therapy is such a big deal; it’s a win/win for the patient, who doesn’t have to worry about anything going wrong in the TJ surgery, but you also have a way, way shorter recovery time needed.

Of course, not everybody is going to have the stem cell option to begin with. The UCL tear has to occur in a specific way for stem cell therapy to become a viable alternative. Richards’ tear was lengthwise on his ligament, so he got lucky in that sense. If it was a regular old tear that went horizontal over his ligament, then we probably wouldn’t be seeing him until next year, just like NiTro.

Still, I’m glad to see Tropeano in good spirits and with a good attitude towards the recovery he’s staring down. Both he and Andrew Heaney (another ‘16 UCL tear that is on the mend until ‘18) are taking this nasty hand that baseball dealt them and combating it with positive, undefeatable attitudes.

In the meantime, we can all count our blessings that Garrett Richards’ UCL decided to tear in a convenient way, otherwise this ‘17 rotation would be looking pretty dicey, and it’s already dicey enough as is.