SARASOTA, Fla. - Justin Duchscherer is probably ahead of most, if not all, of the pitchers in camp after throwing for scouts during the winter.
He's definitely ahead of himself in previous springs.
"Usually, I'd come to spring training having thrown maybe one or two bullpens to save my bullets, but this season was a little different," he said. "I had to get ready to show teams I was healthy."
Duchscherer threw his first Sarasota bullpen session today, breaking out all four of his pitches and coming away satisfied.
"I felt OK," he said. "The heat here is a little bit different, a little humid and whatever, so the ball has a little bit different movement on it, which is better. Arizona has drier air, so my breaking ball seems a little sharper.
"I felt good about my stuff. I think I threw five or six bullpens before I got here, so I feel like physically I'm in shape and I'm ready to go."
Duchscherer, who threw in the same group as David Riske, Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez, said he's done rehabbing and is doing his "normal stuff."
"I'm limited in some of the things," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and run 100-yard sprints like I used to when I was younger. I've got to be careful with that kind of thing. I do a lot of my conditioning on machines, but other than that, there are no limitations."
Duchscherer is getting acclimated to his new surroundings after spending parts of seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics.
"It's been very weird," he said. "I was with the A's for so long, I was the longest-tenured pitcher there last year, so I was kind of the old vet of that team. Now, I'm the new guy and it feels a little different, but everybody's been nice. The coaches have been really cool. Buck (Showalter) talked to me a little bit and made me feel comfortable, which is important. I'm starting to fit in and get to know the guys."
Because he needed to get ready sooner and find a job, Duchscherer no longer is using the early days of camp to work on his stamina.
"Right now, I'm pretty much where I need to be," he said. "I could actually go out and face a hitter in my next outing, but I'll stay where I'm at and do what the team wants me to do."
An Orioles scout clocked Duchscherer's fastball at 85-86 mph last month.
"Normally, I'm 85 to 90 or 91 on my good days," he said. "Last year, I was 84 to 86, which for me is not normal. I knew something was wrong with my hip, but I thought if I kept pitching, maybe it would go away, but it just got worse. So, when I threw, the Orioles scout had a gun on me, and I asked him when I got done and he said I was 85-86. And it surprised me because last year that was as hard as I could throw game-speed, and I was just throwing a bullpen, which, without a hitter in there, you don't have adrenaline and stuff. It gave me confidence knowing that once I get a hitter in there, I'd probably add a couple miles-per-hour on that and get back to where I was."
Duchscherer shared the message that pitching coach Mark Connor passed along to him.
"Basically, what he said to me is, 'You've been around, you know what you're doing, so we're not going to mess with you too much. Just don't overdo it and hurt yourself.' That's kind of the motto everyone's given me."
Manager Buck Showalter gave his opinion of Duchscherer's bullpen session.
"Free and easy. Is that the way they say it?" Showalter said. "Him and Riske both, they are known for command. You saw it again today. I keep reminding guys like that, keep in mind the finish line. They've been through a lot of springs. And Duke's going to be there at the end of spring, we hope. Today was a good step for him.
"It's a health issue. If he's between the lines and on the field, he will fit high up in our rotation."