After more than a year and 10 months of rehabilitation, Jon Garland's long road back to a Major League mound will come full circle Saturday, when he makes his season and Rockies debut as Colorado and the Padres play the second game of a three-game weekend series at Coors Field.
The last time Garland pitched in a big league game was on June 1, 2011, for the Dodgers. Shortly after that outing he underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery that forced him to also miss all of 2012.
Now with a new team and a clean bill of health, the right-hander will finally return to MLB action, a notion that makes Garland a bit nervous.
"Just to get back out in that competition after going through a major surgery, I don't care who you are, you tend to doubt if you'll get back to that form, get back to that level," Garland said. "Regardless if the doctor tells you you'll be fine, you'll get your strength back, regardless if you talk to people in the game who have had similar surgeries, that doubt creeps in. That's going to be the biggest thing for me."
Even though it was just Spring Training, Garland experienced plenty of success in the Cactus League last month, allowing just four runs over 18 innings.
"I had that sense before signing for camp, otherwise I wouldn't have gone to camp," he said. "The biggest surprise to me was how quick I was rebounding. I knew that was going to be my toughest obstacle, rebounding during games and between innings, and rebounding after games, getting ready for the next one. There was a little bit of worry the deeper I would go, but I seemed to get stronger as spring went on."
Opposing Garland for the Padres will be Tyson Ross. The right-hander won the fifth spot in the San Diego rotation with a standout spring. At one point, Ross had a scoreless streak of 15 1/3 innings in the Cactus League.
He last pitched March 30 against the Rangers in an exhibition game in San Antonio. Saturday will mark Ross' debut with the Padres after being acquired from the Athletics in November.
"I'm a pretty even-keeled guy, but I'm excited. It's good to get the year started," Ross said. "I'm happy to get the extra rest, that's for sure. I feel good. I'm going to give us a chance to win. I feel like I'm built up and ready to go."
Padres: Headley making progress
Padres third baseman Chase Headley could have a better idea on Monday of when he will be able to return from the disabled list.
Headley, who originally expected to miss four to six weeks when he fractured the tip of his left thumb on March 17, might return sooner, or so he hopes.
"This is just my goal, this isn't based on the doctors' goal, but I think there's a pretty good chance I can be playing in Major League games by the end of the month," Headley said Friday.
Headley is traveling with the team on its first road trip of the season. He'll return to San Diego after Sunday's game in Denver and will likely have an X-ray on his thumb on Monday, the team's off-day.
"I think [the test] will give us a better idea. I don't know if it will give us a specific timetable, but if they go in and see there's some healing, maybe I can start hitting off a tee," Headley said.
Rockies: Nicasio and Escalona all smiles after scuffle
Rockies pitchers Juan Nicasio and Edgmer Escalona treated fans to a scuffle during Thursday's public workout at Coors Field, but they were smiling and hugging again Friday before the home opener. In fact, the two drove to the stadium together.
"It's no big deal because Escalona is my best friend," Nicasio said. "It was a bad day. Something happened."
Escalona said, "It's like a brother, family. That's what happens all the time."
• Jedd Gyorko became the third rookie in Padres history Thursday to hit safely in each of the club's first three games of a season. His hitting streak ended Friday with an 0-for-4 day at the plate.
• The Rockies won their second consecutive home opener against the Padres on Friday. They also beat San Diego to begin the 2010 season.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.