Percival "absolutely" planning for opening day
Closer Troy Percival said is recovering well from Dec. 3 back surgery and "absolutely" expects to be ready for the start of the season.
Percvial said he plans to pitch in 5-6 exhibition games and expects to start the season as the Rays closer.
"I've had no setbacks,'' he said after reporting to camp this morning. "I'll be ready in spring training. I've already been off the mound twice. I get really stiff for about two hours after I'm done, but I think that's pretty good considering I had 5 1/2 hours of back surgery.''
His first priority is to get himself into shape, and figures that it will take him about three weeks. "Throwing-wise, I expect to be not more than a week or two weeks behind everybody,'' he said.
Percival, 39, was sidelined much of the second half of last season with leg and back problems, and did not pitch in the postseason for the Rays.
"I feel better now than I did at any point last year,'' Percival said. "My back was killing me last year. I still have back pain but I don't have the things that go with it. My legs last year were really numb, they were shaking all the time. I have all the strength back in my legs. That's probably the biggest bonus that I've noticed.''
Percival said he had two "burst" herniated discs removed, and had his spine shaved to relive an entrapped nerve. He said he can throw off-the mound and play long-toss with no issues, but is restricted from running on hard ground or doing fielding drills. He also has been able to resume playing golf.
"Anything can happen, but as of right now I'm coming in feeling better body-wise than I did last year,'' he said. "Last year I was two days in I was blowing hamstrings, I don't anticipate that happening, especially with the workouts they've got me on.''