Tyler Beede did what he always has on his start day. As he sat in the room in Arizona, he started to mentally lock into place. He visualized his plan, repeating it over and over again in his head as the big moment arrived. As the bright lights turned on, Beede walked up and took his place in front of the crowd and tried to fight his nerves.
And then, the Giants' right-hander helped Tyler and Jennifer Rogers get married.
The most intense moment of Beede's 2020 didn't come on a mound. The Giants starting pitcher missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery, but Beede still found a way to get his blood pumping late in the year. In November, he served as the officiant for Rogers, one of his best friends, and his wife.
"If there's been a list of most nerve-wracking moments in my lifetime, that's up there in the top five," Beede said this week, laughing.
Beede really did treat the day and his big speech like he was preparing to start for the Giants, a situation that unfortunately wasn't available to him over the shortened season. Last year was supposed to be the breakout campaign for the former first-rounder. He showed signs of what was to come late in the 2019 season, and when the Giants' new coaching staff surveyed the pitching staff in February, there were few throwing better than Beede. He was headed for a rotation spot, but in February, even as the ball was coming out of his hand as well as it ever had, Beede knew something wasn't right.
In late March, he had reconstructive surgery on his elbow, officially ending a season that looked so promising.
"I'll be completely honest, I felt like at that point -- pain aside -- I was throwing the ball better than I ever have in my life, more consistently than ever. I felt really locked in," Beede said. "I'd say for 48 hours (after the diagnosis) I was extremely disappointed, I was frustrated, I was questioning where did I fall short in my preparation for the season, and then after 48 hours you start to put your big boy pants on and understand it's the reality of the situation.
"You've got to be optimistic and that's how I've been the whole rehab. At the beginning, you need to attack the rehab and trust that it's the best thing for you in your whole career moving forward."
That optimism has shown through Beede's social media updates over the past 10 months. The videos have also documented how different this rehab process is than most.
Between the time Beede had his first MRI and the time he went under the knife, the baseball world, and most of the country, shut down. Beede wasn't able to rehab in San Francisco or Scottsdale as most pitchers would. When the first major milestone -- throwing for the first time -- came in September, Beede wasn't standing in left field at Oracle Park with Gabe Kapler and Dave Groeschner watching. He made those first soft throws with his physical therapist on a patch of grass near his home in the Houston area. Most of his games of catch have been with his PT, with his father taking over when Beede went back home to Massachusetts for a bit.
Beede said being away from the Giants has been a challenge mentally at times, but from a physical standpoint, he has sailed through the rehab process. He did an eight-week throwing program and hit every mark on time before taking a month off to rest over the holidays. Beede was ramping back up for spring training when he hit an unexpected hurdle, testing positive for COVID-19 in early January.
Beede's symptoms were similar to a common cold, and his wife, who also got it, just lost her sense of smell and taste for a few days. But the virus did leave him fatigued, limiting his throwing and workouts. Since recovering, he has moved to Scottsdale to finish his rehab, with another major milestone approaching.
"I should be off the mound here in the next seven to 10 days," Beede said. "I'm happy with how everything is feeling right now. So far, so good."
As Beede has rehabbed, his bosses have continued to fill out a rotation that looks stronger than it did last spring. Kevin Gausman is back and Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris added Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood to the mix, which already included incumbents Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb. The Giants hope to sign at least one more starting option, but if Beede is throwing the way he was last spring, it shouldn't be hard to find him a spot during the season.
Of the current starters, only Beede and Webb are under team control beyond this year, and the Giants desperately need one or both to lock up a long-term rotation spot if they are to be competitive once their hitting prospects start arriving.
Beede has always had May as a target month for his return, and he said that's still the case. He jokes that it felt like he was retired for most of 2020 as he watched the Giants from afar, but in recent days he has ramped up the rehab process at the club's facility in Scottsdale, where guys like Webb, Brandon Crawford and Caleb Baragar are already preparing for the 2021 season. He's not far from feeling those familiar nerves again, this time on a pitcher's mound.
"Watching other guys play catch out there, the sound of them throwing, it felt weird but it's really good to be back," Beede said. "It's been a unique process, but I'm really excited to be coming out of retirement, so to speak."