FLORENCE, S.C. – While most were likely indulging in their third (or fourth) helpings of turkey and dressing, Jamie Callahan had another reason to be thankful during the holiday season.
He was able to start throwing a baseball again – and hopes to do so again on the grandest stage possible.
Getting back to baseball activities was a welcome change for the former Dillon High School standout, who last pitched in April for the New York Mets’ AAA affiliate in Las Vegas. He appeared in just seven games before being shut down.
“It was kind of a gradual thing,” Callahan said. “I was dealing with some minor symptoms that just didn’t seem to go away. We tried rest and rehab and things just didn’t go as planned with that.
“So that kind of left only one option.”
That was season-ending shoulder surgery which he underwent in June. It was close to six months before he could start throwing again, and it will be close to a year before he’s likely fully recovered, he said.
“I had a capsule repair done and they were able to go in and clean some things up and get the shoulder feeling right again,” Callahan said. “You always worry about being able to come back to your same level of play, but you’ve basically just got to take your time and do things one day at a time and work as hard as you can.”
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound right-hander has been focusing on regaining strength in that shoulder, the same one he pitches with, while also working to make sure he has a full range of motion again.
“It’s a slow, slow process,” he said. “But you’ve got to make sure you don’t overdo it. You want to get back as quickly as possible, but you also want to make sure you do it right so you don’t get reinjured.”
That’s likely been one of the hardest things to keep in mind for Callahan. After being drafted by Boston in 2012 in the second round, he had made it up to AAA Pawtucket in 2017 before being traded to the Mets in July in a four-player deal.
On Sept. 5 of that same year, the then 23-year-old made his major league debut at Citi Field in Queens in the ninth inning of a game against Philadelphia.
“I was coming in from the bullpen for the first time and just trotting out and looking around and realizing that this was the moment I had worked for all of my life,” Callahan said. “It was just so cool to be there in that moment on that stage. It’s something you really can’t even put into words.”
It was a successful first outing. The former Wildcat pitched around a leadoff single by Jorge Alfaro and retired the next three Phillies he faced – striking out Freddy Galvis for the final out.
“You always want three up, three down, but it was a good experience to go there and get that first one under your belt,” he said. “Then you just move on from there and try to do it again.”
Callahan appeared in nine games for the Mets and pitched 6 2/3 innings while giving up four runs, three earned, and recording five strikeouts. He began the next year in Las Vegas before the injury cut short any hopes of getting back to the majors in 2018.
“It’s definitely kind of disheartening a little bit, but stuff like this only makes you stronger in the long run,” he said. “I don’t want to just make it back – I want to stay there.”
He’ll likely get that opportunity, albeit on a different coast. Callahan elected free agency at the end of last season and on Dec. 28 he signed a minor-league deal with San Francisco that includes an invite to spring training.
“We’re excited to have him in the organization,” Giants assistant general manager Jeremy Shelley said. “He’s a guy that we’ve tracked over the years in his time with Boston and New York.”
Shelley said the organization sees Callahan as having the stuff to be a potential back-of-the-bullpen-type reliever.
“He’s got an aggressive-type mentality,” Shelley said. “He’s got a good fastball-slider combo and an ability to miss bats. Those things are intriguing and we’re just looking for him to get healthy and get back to pitching competitively in 2019.
“We know the stuff is there and we know the person – he’ll work and do whatever he can to get back on the mound.”