GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are few phrases sweeter to Felipe Paulino’s ears than “no restrictions.”
The man teammates call “Jumbo” because of his 6-foot-3, 265-pound frame is more than ready to resume his career after nearly two seasons of injuries. As far as he’s concerned, Paulino’s brief tenure with the White Sox is already off to a great start because he has no limitations when he throws.
Paulino -- who signed a one-year deal worth $2 million in December -- threw his second bullpen of the spring on Monday and is excited to move forward. He’s hopeful the last two years when he endured reconstructive elbow surgery and arthroscopic shoulder surgery are in the past.
“I’ve had my ups and downs in my career, but I’m still here and that’s a part of baseball, any sport,” Paulino said. “We have injuries. The good thing now is I’m still learning. I’m here just to learn with (pitching coach Don Cooper). I listen. I listen no matter what. Every day I will try to take a step and improve in the game.”
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His first two paces have been pleasing to the White Sox.
When he had the surgery in September, doctors told Paulino he would be healthy within three weeks. All reports over the winter indicated Paulino was on track to be ready by the start of spring training. But the White Sox, who hope Paulino can take the fourth spot in their rotation, also were cautious as general manager Rick Hahn noted the option year on Paulino’s deal -- worth $4 million with a $250,000 buyout -- was important and afforded the right-hander to take his time in case he wasn’t ready.
Thus far Paulino is on par with his teammates.
“You hear the reports that he’s ready to go and he looked fine,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t see anything that you put any red flags on that something’s up. He looks fine.”
Among other pitchers, Cooper watched Paulino closely on Monday before his bullpen session ended. The two spoke briefly with Cooper requesting specific pitches and offering encouragement.
This early in camp, Cooper doesn’t want to be technical. His goal is to familiarize himself with Paulino and he’s pored over video archives so they can get more technical down the road.
“I’m just kind of acquainting himself with him and see what he’s doing,” Cooper said. “I’ve already looked at video of him and will look at more video. I want to see when he was right, when he was healthy more than anything. I want to see what he was doing.”
What Paulino did before his elbow surgery makes the White Sox excited about his potential if he can regain his form. After he had a 4.11 ERA in 124 2/3 innings in 2011, Paulino was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts in 2012.
But his brilliant start ended with his elbow troubles.
Paulino’s rehab from Tommy John surgery only lasted 10 months, but his shoulder never felt right. Part way into his rehab assignment Paulino needed a month off before he returned again and made seven starts to end the season.
Now that his shoulder issues are gone, Paulino feels like he’s back on track. He’s excited because he “lives for baseball,” he said.
“I was fighting with my shoulder for the last couple of months,” Paulino said. “But in the end I said ‘Enough.’ I felt like I couldn’t push any more. That was tough for me. They found something in my shoulder but that was the past. It was minor. But forget about it now. I’m healthy and the good thing is I’m ready to do my thing here with the White Sox.”