On Tuesday afternoon in Oakland, Mariners rescuer Ken Giles remained on the visitor’s bench and answered media questions about his imminent return after missing nearly two seasons due to surgery on Tommy John and a finger injury during spring training as he prepared to return.
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He talked about the work he did during his rehabilitation assignment in minors, the patience it took to wait for the finger tendon to heal and anticipating getting the mound back.
“Let’s hope we don’t fall when I get to the mound,” he said with a slight laugh. “I’m just taking it slow.”
A few minutes later, he admitted in a pre-match radio interview that there was more on his mind with his big league comeback finally within reach.
“A lot of nerves, a lot of anxiety right now,” she said. “I’ve been through what have seemed like a lot of stressful times in my life over the past year and a half. I thought the day would never come. Going under the knife and then the blink of an eye, I returned to Oakland to do the thing I love the most.
The thing he loves the most is something that once caused him pain, and not the kind of pain that forced him to have Tommy John surgery in 2020. In the afternoon of what turned out to be the day of his return to the big names, it was clearly on his mind as he voluntarily told the story.
“I’m a guy who went through a terrible nervous breakdown, and then I had to get myself together and find out who I really was,” he said, alluding to a 2018 episode where he punched himself in the face after giving up a home run. blasting a save for the Astros into a gem thrown by Justin Verlander. “I’m a firm believer in the mental side of the game, and it carries more stress than physical stress does.”
The stress wasn’t limited to securing victories for a post-season team.
“As you get older, you want to solidify in the game for a long time and you want to make a living not just for yourself but for your growing family,” he stressed. “You want to be sure, you want to secure them for their future, but sometimes you lose sight of something when you try to perform so hard just to stay in the big leagues. It’s easy to get here and it’s hard to stay. I think guys put too much pressure on themselves because they want to be that guy.
Giles acknowledged that he needed help managing the mental stress he encountered while playing, so he went to work with a mental skills coach. Through his work he realized that sometimes it was okay not to be “that guy” and just be himself.
“I think after my little things in Houston and my mental side that went into crisis, I went there,” he said before taking a long hiatus. “I had to learn how to turn it off. I had to turn off who I was on the pitch when I went off the pitch. I think just doing it has benefited me because at the end of the day this is a job, but I want to enjoy my job because we can play baseball and make a very successful life out of it. I want to have fun and when I get home I’m not Ken Giles the baseball player, I’m a husband, I’m a father of three, and that’s how I want to be remembered in my home. “
Giles’ wife and three children were present in Oakland when he returned. Before the game, Mariners manager Scott Servais said he would be careful how Giles was brought back. Even though he’d closed for playoff teams in the past, with Giles coming out of surgery, he would be looking for opportunities where the game wasn’t at stake. A six-run lead on Tuesday night ninth provided the perfect opportunity and Giles got the As in order on 15 shots, including 11 strikes.
Three up, three down.
Welcome back to the mound, Ken Giles! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ny40cv9DOX
– Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 22, 2022
After the final elimination, an Elvis Andrus flyout to Julio Rodríguez in the center of the field, Giles ducked his head and thought for a moment before turning to receive a hug from receiver Cal Raleigh and congratulations from his Mariners teammates.
“It was great” Rodríguez said of Giles in his walkoff radio interview after the 8-2 win. “I’ve seen him grind many times, try to get back in the game and finally see him again on the mound out there for the first time, I’m genuinely happy for him.”
Giles’ path remains to be seen, but it was a good start. Finally back in the big leagues, he can’t wait to make his contribution both on and off the pitch, relying on the experience gained through adversity.
“I never take a day for granted,” he said. “I try to have more fun than I try to be too hard on myself. I want to enjoy my career and look back and be happy with what I did instead of looking back as if I treated it more like a job than what I did as a kid, enjoying the game and just having fun and competing. Chasing the ultimate prize. which is a place for the World Series playoffs or something. This is my sense of pride, which I think is beneficial not only for me, but I think anyone who can take my advice with something like this I think it would be beneficial for them. “
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