By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns
It was a long wait for Jacksonville Suns reliever Grant Dayton in Jupiter at the beginning of this season. The southpaw was forced out due to a stress fracture in his pitching elbow during Spring Training and underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid February. Perhaps even more frustrating was the fact Dayton had received an invite to Major League Spring Training with the Marlins.
Finally, after three months of waiting, Dayton appeared in his first game of 2013 with the Suns on May 20 against the Mississippi Braves in Pearl, Mississippi.
“Honestly I didn’t know how long it would take to get back,” the 25-year-old said. “They told me three months and it turns out it was three months but as long as there’s a surgery involved there’s always potential complications.”
Thankfully for Dayton, there were no complications and once Dayton got the call to pitch on May 20, all the left-hander had to do was simply pitch.
“Getting on the mound and facing some live hitters in Double-A where the competition is pretty high, it was nice to finally get my feet wet again,” he said when asked about that first outing.
The lefty allowed an earned run in his inning of relief and admitted the results may not have been what he wanted, but more importantly he said things felt right for him.
“The main thing is my arm felt good on the mound.”
As pitchers will tell you, it’s one thing to throw bullpen sessions or a simulated game, it’s another when you are out on the mound in a live game. Like a hitter who hasn’t faced live pitching in an extended period of time, pitchers have to shake off some rust too. Dayton said it’s location that seems to be the last thing that returns for him after a long layoff.
“I was struggling with location in my first outing, my second outing [on May 24 vs. Birmingham] I was throwing it where I wanted,” he says. “Maybe the velocity’s down a little bit but that’s okay because I don’t rely on velocity, I rely on life on the ball and that was there in my second outing.”
Dayton ended the 2012 season with Jacksonville, appearing in seven contests for the Suns after spending the majority of the year with High-A Jupiter. Like many on this Jacksonville roster, the Alabama native has come up through the Marlins system with this group of players having won the South Atlantic League title in 2011 and helping them nearly win the Florida State League championship last year.
It was a longer wait to get on that mound this year for Dayton, but he’s surely thankful to be back.
“It’s a relief.”