LEWISTON – For Tip Fairchild, there was one bright side to going under the knife this spring.

“I think this surgery has been great for my golf game,” Fairchild joked.

Fairchild picked up the clubs for the first time since having Tommy John elbow surgery last spring and shot a 35 in a quick nine-hole round.

More importantly, though, Fairchild will be picking up a baseball for the first time next Monday and taking the next important step in his rehabilitation.

“Right now, I’m throwing weighted balls during my exercises, not really throwing them hard but just working on getting the motion back,” he said. “I’ll start throwing two sets of 25 throws at 45 feet on Monday. That lasts for about two weeks, the velocity picks up a little bit, then I go back to 90 feet within a month and by then I’m throwing the ball pretty hard.”

The 23-year-old Monmouth Academy and University of Southern Maine star tore his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the preseason while pitching for Houston’s Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks.

Fairchild’s right elbow, in which Houston Astros team doctor Dr. Tom Melhoff replaced the UCL with a tendon from his left arm, is pretty much healed. He was in a hard cast for two weeks and a brace for four weeks. He took the brace off and did light exercises with the arm for another four weeks, then escalated the work load for the next month.

“You get up to 80 percent real fast. It takes about a month, month-and-a-half to get up to 80 percent. It’s that last 20 percent that takes a little while – three months, four months, five months,” he said.

He works out six days a week, five of them with Bob Brainard at Central Maine Partners in Health in Auburn. Roughly once a month he flies to Houston, where Melhoff and the team medical staff checks on his progress. So far, they’ve been pleased, and Fairchild is on target for a return to the mound early next season.

“They say I can’t be any further along than I am,” he said. “Bob thinks I’m probably two or three weeks ahead. They don’t want me throwing earlier than what was scheduled, but the way I feel right now physically, I’m a couple of weeks ahead of where I’m supposed to be.”

It’s been tough for Fairchild, who was the first from his draft class to reach Double-A in the Astros organization, to be out of action this season and see some of his old teammates get promoted to Triple-A and the majors.

He’s been watching the Hooks games on-line and has gone to some Monmouth American Legion, Portland Sea Dogs and Boston Red Sox games. He’s also been taking the opportunity to do some activities he’s missed while concentrating on his baseball career.

“I’ve kind of actually had a summer for the first time in a long time,” he said. “This summer has been flying by. When you’re playing, it feels like a long haul. But I have a feeling, though, that it’s really going to drag from September until when I get back to spring training. I think I’m going to be itching to get back pretty bad.”

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