SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There have been 59 gamers within the Rockies clubhouse to start spring coaching. Each considered one of them has a narrative, but it surely’s laborious to prime Mike Dunn’s.
Final fall, the veteran left-hander feared that his baseball profession was over, at age 33.
By the primary half of the 2018 season, he placed on a courageous face and tried to maintain pitching, however the ache in his shoulder and higher again was overwhelming. His season led to late July and he thought he may by no means pitch once more.
Maybe much more disconcerting, his love for a sport he’d performed since he was 5 years outdated was vanishing.
“There have been days driving dwelling final yr once I couldn’t use my left arm as a result of I couldn’t get my hand on prime of the steering wheel,” Dunn mentioned. “I had conversations with my dad, my spouse, my agent, about simply strolling away.”
Dunn, who signed a three-year, $19 million cope with Colorado previous to the 2017 season, knew one thing was improper, however preliminary assessments couldn’t discover the trigger. When he underwent shoulder surgical procedure in September, the explanations had been revealed.
“They went in and cleaned up the AC joint,” Dunn mentioned. “The docs mentioned it appeared like crab meat floating in water.”
In the course of the operation, docs additionally shaved down his collarbone to scale back ache and friction.
Now, after his misplaced season, the reinvented lefty is pain-free and baffling batters. He has an opportunity to change into an integral a part of the bullpen — a unit that should excel if the Rockies are going beat out the Dodgers and win their first Nationwide League West title.
Getting into Saturday’s Cactus League play, Dunn had pitched six innings, permitting two hits, zero runs, zero walks and placing out 9.
It will be laborious to discover a extra congenial, articulate participant on the Rockies’ roster than Dunn, who grew up in Farmington, N.M. You may’t assist however root for the person.
“We’re all actually completely satisfied for Mike,” supervisor Bud Black mentioned. “He’s such a professional and such a group man. He’s so unselfish and he needs to be a contributor. As a reduction pitcher, your window to contribute in the course of the sport is brief, however his contributions within the clubhouse, on the aircraft, on the bus, and all the issues he does team-wise, are impactful.”
Change is tough for anybody, however particularly laborious for skilled athletes so used to success. However Dunn has modified dramatically, changing into a a lot completely different pitcher than the one who blazed fastballs at 95-96 mph when he was with the Marlins from 2011-16.
“I can suppose again to video games once I was youthful the place all people within the stadium knew I used to be throwing a fastball, the hitter included,” he mentioned. “The entire concept was, ‘Can I put it by him?’
“Now I wish to be extra of a pitcher. Now I wish to make my fastball look sooner by mixing in different pitches, preserving the hitters off-balance, preserving them guessing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized. I was a thrower, now I’m a pitcher.”
Black, who made it by way of 15 seasons within the majors by being a real pitcher, lights up when he talks about Dunn.
“We’re actually inspired,” Black mentioned. “There’s been one thing of a change with ‘Dunner’ since early in his profession in Miami. It’s a tribute to Mike. He’s acquired to maintain it going, after all. And it’s nonetheless spring coaching, however I’m actually completely satisfied the place Mike is.”
Dunn’s journey additionally uncovered one thing he thought he’d misplaced.
“Sitting out final yr was robust, you by no means wish to do this,” he mentioned. “However on the identical time, it introduced the love of the sport again. I’m right here in spring coaching, I’m not grinding, I’m having enjoyable once more.”