Early in the 2019 season, right-handed pitcher Peter Solomon was pitching for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, then the Houston Astros’ High-A affiliate, when he felt his right forearm tighten up after throwing a fastball in the second inning of his second appearance that season.
He wasn’t sure what had happened and even went back out for the third inning, but his fastball had dropped from 93 to 86 mph. Solomon talked to his pitching coach, and they decided he was done for the day. It turned out to be the right move, as Solomon had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery five weeks later.
Rehab from Tommy John surgery usually sidelines pitchers for around a year, but the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season. The next competitive pitch the former Mount Saint Joseph pitcher threw came with the Houston Astros on April 18 of this year against the Seattle Mariners.
In other words, he jumped from High-A to the majors despite having Tommy John surgery.
“If you had told me that was going to happen, I would have thought you were crazy,” Solomon said with a laugh in a recent conversation. “It’s a pretty big leap for anybody, especially coming off surgery. It’s just pretty crazy to think about.”
But that’s what happened. Solomon, who turns 25 in August, has had two stints in the majors so far this year but was optioned April 30. He threw a scoreless inning at Seattle April 18 and did it again in snowy conditions at Colorado April 21.
Surgery in 2019 fixed the ligament damage and also took care of bone spurs. Solomon pitched at Notre Dame for three years (2015-2017). He graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Business IT in December 2019 while recovering from surgery. He said his college and the Astros did a solid job in helping him recover from the surgery and slowly make it back to the mound.
“I had a great support staff through Notre Dame and the Astros; they laid out a really good plan for [my] throwing schedule,” Solomon said. “I had to do a lot of it at home, and they stayed on top [of things].”
He wound up training at a few places, even going to the Astros’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., for a month and a half. But the 6-foot-4, 211-pound right-hander made his way back and was on the Astros’ taxi squad for the club’s second road trip of the year. Then, after another pitcher got hurt, Solomon got his chance.
Ahead of his major-league debut in Seattle, bullpen coach Josh Miller told him that his stuff was good enough to pitch at the big-league level and to “just go out there and attack.”
Houston selected Solomon out of Notre Dame in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He was a starter and a reliever but did most of his work out of the bullpen. Overall, Solomon went 8-10 with a 3.85 ERA with the Irish during his three years at Notre Dame — and also had eight saves.
All of this has not surprised Mount Saint Joseph coach Phil Kraska, who worked with the Gaels when Solomon went to school there (Solomon graduated from Mount Saint Joseph in 2014). Kraska still receives clips of Solomon’s pitching from him and clearly takes pride in what the former Mount Saint Joseph star has accomplished.
“He’s got great stuff, and he has a true competitive spirit,” Kraska said. “He’s just got an iron mind. He’s got the physical skills and he’s got the work ethic, too. He’s just got the whole package and is the real deal.”
Kraska also likes how Solomon has not forgotten where he came from. The pitcher spoke with the Gaels’ varsity program about a month and a half ago through Zoom and made a big impression on the team.
When pitching at Notre Dame, Kraska said that Solomon would return to Mount Saint Joseph to do more work on breaks.
“He loves the school, loves the game and works very hard,” Kraska said.
Solomon also felt that the tough schedule the Gaels play was good for him. The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference has long been known for quality programs like Calvert Hall, Mount Saint Joseph and others.
“I definitely think it helped out playing good competition in high school,” he said. “It was always good. You’re facing a good opponent every [time you go] out there.”
As for the future, Solomon said the Astros are looking at making him a starter at some point. Right now, he’ll be available for Houston to call up and use as needed to help out a bullpen that’s been hit by some injuries.
“He has really good stuff, and the better he pitches, the more elevated [in his role] he will become,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters when the Astros first called up Solomon. “I like his attitude; I like his stuff. He could be one of those pleasant surprises that you didn’t count on.”
It would not be surprising to see Solomon going up and down this season as many young pitchers do early in their career. Right now, the pitcher just wants the chance to make his mark with the Astros. After jumping from High-A to the majors despite Tommy John surgery, Solomon is ready to go.
“I would love to do … whatever they want me to do,” Solomon said. “It feels good to [be pitching in the majors], and it’s exciting, for sure.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Houston Astros