PEORIA, Ariz. -- There's no need for Clay Hensley to consult his appointment book to double-check the exact date he had surgery on his right shoulder. "Sept. 21, 7:30 in the morning," Hensley said on Thursday after a bullpen session that was anything but mundane or routine. Hensley threw off the mound before Thursday's game against the Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex, the first time the right-hander has done so since last season and, more importantly, the first time he's done so pain-free since August 2006.
"My arm feels awesome," Hensley said. "We got over the hump a few weeks ago as far as feeling any kind of pain or anything like that. Now it's just mechanics and getting the arm strong. We've stretched it out as far as we can go from flat ground." Hensley -- who threw 30 pitches during his mound session, all fastballs -- was excited to see some movement on his fastball, something that was missing during the 2007 season when he struggled to overcome the pain in his shoulder. Hensley went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA in 13 games in 2007 with the Padres. He was never really healthy, as he was troubled by everything from blister issues to biceps tendinitis, which actually masked the labrum tear in his shoulder.
But Hensley, exactly seven months removed from his surgery on Friday, has been without pain ever since."I'm excited. I had absolutely no pain in my shoulder," Hensley said. "I don't think that I knew how bad I was hurting until now. It feels good. I know it's fixed now. I know I can trust it." Hensley will throw again on Sunday and after one or two more bullpen sessions will mix in breaking balls. If all goes well, he'll be cleared to face live hitters in the not-so-distant future. Hensley said that he could return to pitching competitively in mid-April if he's going two or three innings by the end of April. It's not clear if he'll remain in Peoria to pitch in extended Spring Training when the team breaks camp or not. Hensley's preference, of course, would be to be pitching for the Padres, though his first concern is remaining healthy from here on out. "When we first showed up and guys were throwing bullpens the next day, you wish you were there," Hensley said. "But you have to remember that I just had surgery and it takes a little time to get back. If anything, it was more motivation to keep working hard and get back up there."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.