SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Gabe Kapler gathered the 71 Giants players, 13 coaches and the rest of the support staff at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday morning, it should have been the official start of the biggest spring of Reyes Moronta's career.
Moronta likely would have entered the spring as a favorite to become Kapler's closer, but he suffered a devastating shoulder injury at the end of August and had surgery on September 10 to repair his labrum. Moronta will spend the whole spring and most of the season rehabbing, but the first full workout day still was an important one for Moronta.
He was set to play catch Monday for the first time since getting hurt.
"It's a big day," Moronta said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "Since I got hurt, I've been waiting for this day."
It's a small step, but an important one for a player who is expected to be out until August. The Giants will be careful with Moronta, who holds an interesting spot on the roster. In a camp where Kapler wants every young pitcher to get stretched out, Moronta is one of the few true relievers with big league experience for the Giants.
The Giants plan to be creative this spring, and pitchers are preparing for the possibility that four of five with starting experience might end up in the bullpen going two or three innings an outing. Kapler has been hesitant to hand out specific roles, but the Giants do figure to lock Tony Watson into the late innings somewhere.
After that, there are a lot of question marks, and long term, Moronta still profiles as a closer or setup man. Before the injury, he ranked in the top 20 among NL relievers in batting average allowed (.197) and opponents' slugging percentage (.298).
A big step will be taken Monday, but Moronta knows he won't fully mentally clear all the hurdles until he gets back on a big league mound. His injury was awful to watch, and it's the type that often lingers when a player starts ramping it up. He said the pain matched the scene, but he didn't realize how much damage had been done to his throwing shoulder until later.
"It was awful pain," he said. "But I feel good now."
For now, the focus is on getting healthy. Moronta spent his offseason in Scottsdale to focus on rehab, taking a short break to get married. It's a goal for him to follow Johnny Cueto's lead and get back late in the year, if only for a few appearances.
"It's very important for me and for the team and for my family," he said. "It's important for me to at least pitch a month or so and know that I'm healthy."
Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area