SWEET MUSIC: Frank Viola can't wait to get to work in Las Vegas. First, he spent the night in New Jersey.
Just more than two months after open-heart surgery, Viola represented the New York Mets at the Major League Baseball draft. Looking fit and healthy, he said he was set to fly out Friday morning to resume his job as pitching coach for their Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.
"Everything's good. I just got the OK from the doctor this past Tuesday," the 54-year-old Viola said. "I'm really excited to get going again and I'm very thankful that they basically caught it and were able to take care of things."
"I'll be suited up for the game tomorrow night," he added. "I'm like a little kid. Yeah, I mean, the rehab, everything went so well. I can't tell everybody how appreciative I am of the Met organization for giving me the opportunity to rehab and recuperate and get myself in the shape I'm in, and now it's my time to help them out a little bit and get back to coaching."
A 20-game winner for his hometown Mets in 1990, Viola previously served as a Class-A pitching coach for the club. He was hired in January for the same role with the 51s, but a heart problem was detected during a spring training exam.
"The big thing was changing your diet, eating right, losing the weight. I mean, I let myself go. It was a hell of a wake-up call, but it was something I was fortunate I was able to do something about, take care of and go on," Viola said. "Four weeks after surgery, the heart, the aorta itself, was 100 percent."
Viola won't be ready to throw batting practice for another two weeks or so, but he's already playing catch.
"You don't realize how much you miss something until you miss it," he said. "The first thing I thought when the Mets said you've got to shut everything down, you're going to have heart surgery, it wasn't, I better take care of myself, or what's going on with me? It was like, oh God, now I've got to have somebody cover for me in Vegas. Those are my guys!"
Viola, a left-hander nicknamed "Sweet Music," won the 1988 AL Cy Young Award with Minnesota. He went 176-150 with a 3.73 ERA in 15 major league seasons with Minnesota (1982-89), the Mets (1989-91), Boston (1992-94), Cincinnati (1995) and Toronto (1996).
Viola is looking forward to working closely with some of New York's touted pitching prospects, including Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Viola said he texted Syndergaard and wished him good luck in his return from the disabled list Thursday night, and Syndergaard responded, "You couldn't get here a day earlier?"
"It's going to be fun," Viola said. "They're great kids. You know the ability is there. It's just a question of getting a little seasoning, a little experience."
Viola's daughter, Brittany, was a diver on the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics.