Duchscherer rejoins team, still rehabbing
Right-hander glad to finally be back in A's uniform
ANAHEIM -- More than four months ago, Justin Duchscherer prepared to rid himself of a disabled list status and take to the mound in Anaheim for his first start in two weeks.
However, Duchscherer never made that start. In fact, he was scratched before he ever reached the mound after experiencing hip pain during his warmup session. He's yet to step on one since, having undergone season-ending hip surgery on June 7.
But on Monday, the A's righty returned to the scene of the crime, joining his teammates in Anaheim for the first time since mid-May. He suited up, and couldn't have been more happy doing so.
"I missed this," Duchscherer said, looking around the clubhouse, before Oakland's contest against the Angels. "It feels like years, it really does."
The hurler's June surgery, performed by Nashville-based physician Thomas Byrd, involved the correction of a femoral acetabular impingement in his left hip. Duchscherer has a congenital issue in his hips where the femur meets the joint, a problem that was resolved in the right hip by the same surgery, which typically requires six months of recovery time.
He is now throwing at a distance of 90 feet as part of his rehab program in Arizona and hoping to begin throwing off a mound in about a month. Where he goes from there, though, is in question. But Duchscherer is sure it better involve a baseball uniform.
"When I'm healthy, I've always proven that I can pitch," he said. "The thing I have to prove is that I can stay healthy. I haven't shown that yet. That's the worst part about that, being a baseball player and knowing I can do it but not physically being able to. So that's my goal, whether it's here or somewhere else. I'm a baseball player, and I'd like to pitch at least a few more years. I'm too young to try to move on to something else."
Duchscherer was 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts -- three of which didn't include any earned runs -- for the A's before his season ended prematurely. He was sidelined during all of the 2009 season due to elbow surgery and a subsequent bout with clinical depression, and he has missed parts of each of the last four seasons.
"I don't feel anything's wrong with me anymore," he insisted. "Going into the season, I had that back problem, which we found out was stemming from my hip. My hip's been fixed -- both have been fixed -- and my elbow's fixed. I can't imagine what else could go wrong."
Thus, Duchscherer is hoping a team takes a chance on him next year, much like the A's -- who acquired him from the Rangers in 2002 -- did this season with a one-year contract that was highly incentive-laden. Whether they go for the free agent again is out of his control.
"We haven't talked," he said. "It's between my agent and them. If they're interested, that's great. I'd be certainly up to coming back here, but they've got some great pitching, and that's a tribute to them. I don't know if I'll fit. You never know, but we'll see what happens. I'm open to it."
Duchscherer is open to a lot of things these days thanks to a rehab schedule that has allowed him to spend a good dose of time with his 7-year-old son, Evan -- a blessing he wasn't afforded very often while battling elbow issues last year.
"It's different than last year because I was dealing with a lot of other stuff then," he said. "This year it's just baseball. I get to see my son regularly. That wouldn't have been able to happen if I was pitching, so that's one positive out of all this. That helps, because that was the No. 1 thing I was going through last time -- separation from my kid, and not knowing how to deal with that."
And while Duchscherer has very much enjoyed his moments with Evan, including a trip to Sea World in San Diego, he's also ready to begin work again -- as a pitcher, and as a teammate.
"It's difficult when you're on a team but not able to do your part," he said. "It's hard to watch. It's hard not to beat yourself up about it. I want to contribute and I want to help, but I can't. That's why I've been keeping up with the team and the guys, but I don't get too close to it.
"But I can throw again, so I want to at least feel like a baseball player, and that's what's great about being here. One of the main reasons I wanted to come here was to see everybody. I've been with this team for so long. I just want to be able to tell the organization thanks. When I move on, if I go somewhere else, this will always hold a special place in my heart."
Chris Carter returned to the starting lineup on Monday after missing Sunday's game with a sore left thumb, the same one that sidelined him for a couple weeks at Triple-A Sacramento earlier this month. Carter said before Monday's contest that the pain is still there, but is "tolerable." ... Rehabbing lefty Josh Outman tossed two innings in an Instructional League game on Monday, and manager Bob Geren said all his pitches looked "outstanding." According to Geren, Outman threw 33 pitches and averaged 91 mph on his fastball. ... Fellow rehabbing hurler Joey Devine is also throwing in games. On Monday, he played catch from a distance of 160 feet, and reports were that he "felt great." Both Outman and Devine are expected to be ready by Spring Training. ... Steve Tolleson never received the ball he blasted for his first Major League home run on Sunday at the Coliseum. The A's infielder said he was informed that the fan who caught it, despite receiving a signed bat from Tolleson, was sitting next to a lawyer who advised him to keep it, as it may be worth a lot of money some day. ... Blazing temperatures reached 111 degrees in Anaheim on Monday, forcing the A's to take batting practice inside. However, they did all other work outside, where it dropped to 96 degrees by the time of the first pitch.