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Estes on the comeback trail

Appeal Staff Report

Shawn Estes hopes to return to the San Diego Padres this season, but knows he can’t rush his comeback.

The 1991 Douglas High graduate made his fifth appearance on Friday in the minor leagues in the last month in his comeback attempt, making an impressive start for the Padres’ California League Class A team, the Lake Elsinore Storm.

The 34-year-old Estes threw four shutout innings, striking out four, allowing three hits and walking none over four innings. He was slated to throw between 55 and 60 pitches.

Where Estes makes his next appearance is unclear, but it could be higher up in the Padres organization. Before Friday, Estes made four appearances with the Padres Rookie League team in Arizona, allowing three runs and striking out 10 over seven innings.

The left-handed pitcher is coming off reconstructive surgery to his left elbow in June, 2006 and last made a Major League start on April 6 of that year for the Padres.

“In an ideal world, I would love to pitch this season in the big leagues,” Estes told MLB.com earlier this week during a workout he had at San Diego’s PETCO Park. “I am itching to get back out there and compete and put on the uniform again and help this team.

“With that being said, if that’s my main focus, and I do something stupid trying to get to that point – like if I rush it – then I’m setting myself back by missing this year and maybe part of next year. That’s a worst-case scenario.

“I’m trying to take the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario and fall somewhere in between. Every day … it’s something a little different with this injury. I want to get to the point where I’m throwing every fifth day again and that I have the stuff to get the other guys out. I’m getting to that point right now.”

Estes told MLB.com his velocity isn’t where he’d like it to be, but he’s gradually building his arm strength back.

“It’s about building arm strength and getting comfortable on the mound again,” Estes told MLB.com. “It’s been a long time since I last pitched competitively. It’s going to take time, mentally and physically, to get back to feeling 100 percent.”

Estes stold MLB.com his recovery from surgery has been slow and not without minor setbacks along the way. Still, he said that pitching in real games has made his recovery more tolerable.

“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a lot more bearable or tolerable because I’m living out in Arizona and my family is there, so I can separate the two,” said Estes, who has a 99-90 Major League record with a career 4.71 earned run average.

“The time I spend at the ballpark is a grind. But now that I’m seeing some live hitting, it’s a lot more enjoyable.”