- - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It took Tim Collins, 28, just a few minutes to run from the Nationals bullpen to the pitcher’s mound late Monday night.

But it was actually a journey that began nearly four years ago.

Collins, a left-handed reliever, pitched in three World Series games for the Kansas City Royals in 2014. But after undergoing a pair of Tommy John ligament replacement surgeries in 2015 and 2016, he did not play in either of those seasons.

He was back in the major leagues for the first time Monday, after pitching in 17 games with Triple-A Syracuse before he was called up.

“Running out (of the bullpen), I was pretty emotional, whether I showed it or not,” Collins said. “But after that first pitch, the popout (by Cory Spangenberg of the Padres), I just settled in. I knew it was just another game.”

Making his comeback more compelling, he said, was being able to share it with his wife, Tiffany, and two children.

Collins is from Massachusetts, but he and his family settled in the Richmond suburb of Glen Allen a few years ago — in part to have some land in a peaceful neighborhood. This winter, he put a gym in his garage.

“I was able to spend a lot of time with my family, which I love,” he said. “I didn’t have to leave the house to train.”

His wife and children drove up to the nation’s capital Sunday to watch him take the field and will stay with Collins before the Nationals head out of town on a road trip slated to begin Thursday in Miami.

The timing wasn’t ideal for his wife to travel, as she is expecting another child June 7.

But it was hard to pass up his return to the majors.

“Great, great story. He went out there, and I was really pumped up for him,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “Just a testament to what kind of guy he is.”

Collins pitched in 228 games with the Royals from 2011 to 2014 and recorded 220 strikeouts, the most of any lefty reliever in club history.

The 5-foot-7 lefty, small by big-league standards for a pitcher, appeared in 18 minor league games last season for the Nationals, compiling a rough 14.54 ERA in 10 games at Double-A Harrisburg along the way.

Collins was a non-roster invitee to spring training this season and pitched well, but did not make the Opening Day roster.

“They took a chance. Not too many teams would take a chance on someone who had two Tommy John surgeries,” he said. “It has worked out pretty well.”

He had an ERA of 3.63 ERA in 17 games this season with Syracuse before coming to Washington before Monday’s game, a 10-2 Nationals win over San Diego that included the first big league home run of outfielder Juan Soto, 19, in his second at-bat with the club.

Collins gives the Nationals more depth in the bullpen and provides another lefty reliever along with closer Sean Doolittle and Sammy Solis. Matt Grace, another lefty reliever, went on the disabled list April 21 with a left groin strain while veteran righty reliever Ryan Madson headed to the DL on Sunday with a pectoral strain.

The lefty from Massachusetts came on in the eighth inning Monday against the Padres and struck out two while allowing no runs in one inning. He gave up a hit to Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, his teammate with the Royals on the 2014 World Series club.

Collins told 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday that he is like an “old man” in that he can tell you when rain is on the way due to the aches in his left arm. (Then again nearly everyone in this region can tell you it’s going to rain these days).

“My arm will never be the same before surgery,” Collins said. “I feel healthy, I feel strong. I put myself in a good condition. Experience is huge, especially on a playoff-caliber team. I have learned a lot about baseball the last three years watching from the couch.”

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