It came a year later than expected, but Tony Wieber finally got to make his homecoming as a professional.
And the return home with the Fort Wayne TinCaps provided the former Michigan State closer and Grand Ledge standout with a chance to pitch in front of his father for the first time as a pro last week against the Lansing Lugnuts.
“It was very neat,” said Wieber, the 2009 State Journal baseball player of the year who is in his third season in the San Diego Padres’ minor league system. “When I was rehabbing down in Arizona, I would have gone anywhere, but I was hoping to go to the TinCaps. I looked at the schedule and the whole time I was rehabbing, I saw they were coming (to Lansing) on May 5.
“… The day before, the stars aligned and they called me.”
Wieber, who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2012 MLB draft, initially thought he would appear in the Midwest League with Fort Wayne at some point last season. An injury in spring training last year derailed those plans and led to him missing the entire season.
Wieber had minor surgery on his elbow in December, started throwing in February and had been rehabbing at extended spring training in Arizona until being promoted last week.
“It took awhile to figure out (what was wrong), but once I had surgery it was a pretty minor recovery,” Wieber said.
And now that he’s back and feeling well, Wieber’s focus is on building off a successful 2012 campaign in which he went 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 40 innings for the Padres’ short-season affiliate in Eugene, Ore.
Wieber has gotten off to a strong start in the Midwest League and entered Thursday with a 2-0 mark. He hasn’t allowed a run in his eight innings pitched over three appearances with the TinCaps. He tossed three shutout innings of relief against Dayton to earn his first Midwest League win on May 9, and pitched four scoreless innings against Lake County on Tuesday to register his second victory.
“Being hurt for so long, it’s just kind of getting back in the swing of things and into the competitive baseball mode,” Wieber said.
“For me, (the key is) staying healthy at this point. All the guys that are here are here for a reason. We’ve all got talent. It’s just the guys that can harness that and be consistent. I’m not a flamethrower or anything so I have to be in the strike zone often.”