|(photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)|
Sunday, February 9, 2014
The Unluckiest Man in the World
Many, many years ago, when I was a Boy Scout, we used to do this repetitive skit at events called the “Ugliest Kid in the World.” It went like this:
We put a kid on the stage with a paper bag over his head and then an announcer would claim that before us stood the “ugliest kid in the world.” He would say that he was “so ugly that if you ever laid eyes on him, you would surely die.”
The announcer then would state that there were three brave souls that were willing to test their luck if they were paid $100 to look upon the “ugliest kid” to see if they could survive. At that point a boy scout in the troop, confidently approached the seated kid, peaked under the bag covering his face, and would immediately fall, feigning death. This would repeat two more times before the announcer would call upon one of the parents in the audience and dare him to look upon the “ugliest kid in the world.”
After much coaxing and audience encouragement, the adult would reluctantly come up to look upon the ugliest kid. And at the point he peaked under the paper bag, the ugliest kid in the world would fall dead.
With that story, that has absolutely nothing to do with Scott Elbert, I have to say that I’m convinced he’s not the ugliest kid in the world, but he’s arguably the unluckiest man in the world.
Today we received word from numerous sources that Elbert, already on the 60-man disabled list, had an emergency appendectomy procedure 10 days ago, another setback on his long road to get back to the pitcher’s mound.
Selected in the 1st round of the 2004 draft by the Dodgers as the 17th overall pick in the game. Elbert was touted as being a potential left-handed starting pitcher in the majors one day. He cruised through the low minors at Ogden, Columbus, Vero Beach and Jacksonville in his first few years. His ceiling was high, his progression impressive, and things appeared bright for the young man. Then the injuries started to mount.
In 2007 an ailing shoulder forced him to miss most of the season. When he returned for the 2008 season, Elbert was relegated to bullpen duties while he regained his strength. He impressed enough in that role with the Jacksonville AA team that he made his major league debut in a September call up that allowed him the opportunity to pitch in 10 games during the pennant race.
2009 was an excellent year for Scott in the minors where he continued his recovery from injury and was named the organization’s “Minor League Pitcher of the Year” during stints at Chattanooga and Albuquerque. He also had 19 appearances for the Dodgers that season, including an NLCS appearance against the Phillies.
Things looked very positive for Elbert going into the 2010 sesason, but he failed to make the big club and was sent back to AAA, and when he eventually was called up to the majors for an appearance in May, he walked three consecutive hitters and was immediately optioned back to Albuquerque. What followed after that was a mystery to many of us as it has never been fully explained. He started on game in Albuquerque and then left the game for reasons that were never specified. Speculation ranged from a family tragedy to a mental breakdown. The Dodgers were very tight lipped about his absence and to their credit, they never divulged the personal reason why Scott left the team for the remainder of the season. When he emerged in the Arizona Fall League in Phoenix, it was a relief to many, and Elbert performed admirably in that very tough league made up of rising stars of the game.
So 2011 arrived and Elbert again started the year in the Albuquerque bullpen, but by May, the Dodgers called him up. What resulted was a very fine comeback year. He stuck with the big club for the remainder of the year after pitching in 11 appearances before allowing a run to score. He had become the situational lefty and he was relishing the role. In 33.1 innings, he sported a 2.43 ERA and left handed batters hit a mere .191 off of him.
Entering 2012, Elbert was looked upon as the lefty specialist on the ball club and he made the team for the first time directly out of spring training. It was the year he should have established himself as a major leaguer, and looking at his numbers, he did just that, going 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Unfortunately, elbow problems plagued Elbert throughout the whole season. He landed on the disabled list twice with elbow inflammation and finally in September, he underwent season ending elbow surgery.
In January, Dr. Neal El Attrache performed a second arthroscopic surgery on Scott’s elbow, as he continued to experience pain suffer setbacks. It was hoped that the procedure would allow him to be ready by early to mid-season. At the end of spring training, Elbert received a platelet-rich plasma injection to speed up his healing. He began pitching in May. First at Rancho Cucamonga under the eyes of the Dodgers training and medical staff. Eventually he progressed to Chattanooga for back to back games. The results on the mound were great, but physically, Scott experienced elbow pain. He was shut down and sent back to Los Angeles.
On June 6th, Elbert received the Tommy John surgery. An MRI had revealed that he completely tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.
So with an expected return for Scott Elbert in 2014 towards mid-to late season, he had the appendectomy a full ten days before pitchers and catchers reported. Lousy timing for a guy trying to work his way back to the club and into the mindset of Dodgers administrators making personnel decisions. Since this happened in the offseason, it’s probably not a back breaking setback to his recovery, but it certainly curtails his fitness workload due to weakness. And for that reason, I dub Mr. Elbert the “Unluckiest Man in the World.”