For Rusch, comeback is icing on cake
At age 33, Glendon Rusch was fully resigned to the fact his major-league career could well be over. The more compelling news was that his...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
At age 33, Glendon Rusch was fully resigned to the fact his major-league career could well be over. The more compelling news was that his life wasn't.
The only pitches Rusch threw in 2007 were to a Little League All-Star team during batting practice. He spent the year at his Southern California home with his family, "doing all the fun stuff a guy at home gets to do."
Barbecuing. Swimming. Playing with his young son, Cade, and supporting his wife, Kelley, through the pregnancy that resulted a month ago in the birth of their second son, Trevor.
Rusch, who graduated from Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, did everything but what had consumed and defined him for the previous 10 years — pitching in the major leagues.
That phase of Rusch's life seemed to have ended on Sept. 13, 2006, when he felt chest pains while running on a treadmill in the Cubs' weight room.
Rusch eventually was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right lung — a life-threatening pulmonary embolism that required him to take blood-thinners as treatment. That medication, in turn, temporarily eliminated baseball as an occupation, because the risk of being hit with a line drive could have had fatal implications.
"I thought I probably would not come back," Rusch said in a recent phone interview. "I really prepared myself to not play again. I didn't want to get my hopes up. I just prepared myself to retire."
So that makes what is happening right now to Rusch so much the sweeter. Cleared by his physician in August to return to baseball, Rusch is in the process of showing major-league teams what he still has to offer, which by all accounts is plenty.
During the past two weeks, Rusch has held three throwing sessions at the Pasadena, Calif., facilities of West Coast Sports Management, the agency he recently signed to represent him. Those "camps," as Rusch calls them, have been scouted by more than half the teams in baseball.
Rusch, a free agent, is virtually certain be in some team's camp for spring training in February. He is, after all, that most precious of commodities: A living, breathing left-hander. Not only that, but one that can start or relieve, a well-regarded clubhouse influence who will be eternally grateful for every additional moment in the majors.
"I'm very excited," Rusch said. "It's been a real fun couple of months, getting going again, especially getting back on the mound. It's a good feeling after the time off. I literally didn't pick up a ball for 10 or 11 months."
Rusch says he feels better than he ever has in his career, the time off apparently having had a rejuvenating effect on his arm. Despite a career record of 60-94 with four teams — much of the downside attributable to a combined 7-27 record in 1998 and 2003 — Rusch should have no shortage of suitors.
"There's a lot of interest, and the club he decides to sign with is going to have a completely healthy left-handed pitcher who will be a solid contributor," said Dan Evans, the former Mariners executive who recently left the club to become president and CEO of West Coast Sports Management.
A scout who viewed one of Rusch's recent workouts came away impressed, and said he would give a positive recommendation to his team's general manager. The scout noted that Rusch appeared to be about 10 pounds overweight, because of his limited physical activity during the layoff, but he said he wasn't concerned.
"I saw no restrictions in his arm," the scout said. "I think he can come back and be a fifth starter or a swing guy for someone. He was throwing 86 to 88 [mph] with good sink to his fastball, a real good change and a tight slider. I was impressed. I wouldn't be afraid to bring him in."
The Mariners are among the teams that scouted Rusch and expressed interest, with Evans' connection a likely benefit if the M's decide to pursue Rusch.
Rusch said he has also received good feedback from the Dodgers, Brewers and Cardinals, among others, and would be receptive to the Cubs, who paid him $3.25 million in 2007 in absentia as part of the two-year, $6 million contract he signed after the 2005 season.
"When the right situation comes along for Glendon and his family, he'll be all over it," Evans said.
Rusch realizes that he won't be a top priority in the free-agent frenzy of the upcoming winter meetings, and he's prepared to be patient. After waiting nearly a year for the all-clear from his doctor, another few weeks won't be hard.
He was intrigued to learn recently that Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook, who started Game 4 of the World Series, also came back from a blood clot in his lung. According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, about one-third of people with undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolism don't survive, but the number drops dramatically when the condition is diagnosed and treated promptly.
"My blood is the same as it was before I went on the blood thinners," he said. "I asked my doctor the difference in my risk between playing and not playing. He said, 'Absolutely nothing. There's no more risk pitching in a game as watching TV on a couch. In fact, there might be risk on the couch because you're not exercising.' "
Rusch spent last year watching baseball from his couch. Next season, against all odds, he'll be back in a more comfortable venue: on the mound.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
|Glendon Rusch career statistics|
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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