KC's Vargas: Too soon to think about '16 return

KC's Vargas: Too soon to think about '16 return

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals left-hander Jason Vargas' rehab from Tommy John surgery remains on schedule as he continues to play catch three times a week in the Arizona sun.

"I am throwing from about 75 feet now," Vargas said. "It feels great. It really does. Feels way better than before."

But because of the Royals' normal protocol for pitchers returning to the big league level from Tommy John surgery -- about 14 months -- the odds of Vargas contributing to the Royals in 2016 wouldn't appear great.

Vargas had his surgery on Aug. 5 of last season. That would mean the 14-month timetable -- which Luke Hochevar abided by last season and Tim Collins will this season -- would push Vargas' return into early October, when the Royals intend to be in the postseason.

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And at that point, it's highly unlikely the Royals would need another starter.

"We aren't going to set any limitations," trainer Nick Kenney said, "but everything in the process of rehab would have to go pretty much perfectly for him [to be pitching in the big leagues by the end of the season]. Our first concern is his health, not just at the end of this season but for his future as well."

Vargas concedes that returning to the Royals in 2016 could be a borderline reach, but he certainly hasn't ruled it out. Mostly, though, he is trying to avoid thinking about timetables.

"I don't think there's any target date other than me being able to make my next throwing date each time, at this point," Vargas said. "There are guidelines from studies they've done on how long before I come back. The program usually is 12 to 14 months when guys are able to compete again.

"I think the ultimate goal is to move along and not have any setbacks. But I want to be as healthy as possible. As long as that happens, and if I keep getting stronger, maybe [I'll be back by September], but I'm not thinking that far along. It's so early in the process.

"You just let the timelines take care of themselves."

It might make more sense if the focus for Vargas was to just ensure he'll be healthy for the 2017 season.

"But I don't know if that's the way we're looking at it," Vargas said. "If that happened, we'd accept that. But I think the goal still is to be competitive as early as possible. But we have a long way to go."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.