Let us hijack either Professor Peabody’s WayBack Machine or barrow the TARDIS from the Doctor and head back to September 28, 2011 and set a course for Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a beautiful day, 77 degrees with light wind, a pleasant day for watching a baseball game. On that day, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves in 13 innings by a 4-3 score. It was a fun game to watch, but otherwise completely nondescript in nature.
So, why are we running the risk of encountering Daleks of an angry little dog with glasses to head there? Well, because that inning that Ryan Madson pitched that night appeared to be the last regular season inning of his career. Madson, a flamethrower who was quite the price free agent as a closer, required Tommy John surgery after he ruptured his ulnar collateral ligament during Spring Training with the Reds in 2012. Signing with the Angels the following offseason, Madson pitched one perfect minor league inning, but once again had pain in the arm. He was released on August 5th, and was out of baseball for all of the 2014 season.
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The Kansas City Royals took a gamble that Ryan Madson was finally healthy, signing him to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. While absolutely nothing was expected of the now 34 year old Madson, he impressed during his time in Arizona, posting a 3.00 ERA and a 1.222 WHiP, striking out six in nine innings of work. He may have had that same velocity as before, but he still pitched well enough to make the Royals Opening Day roster.
On Monday, Madson’s comeback was truly completed. Entering in the ninth inning, Madson finished out the Royals 10-1 victory. It may not have been the perfect storybook ending, as he allowed a walk, but he also induced a double play and pitched a scoreless inning. Even more importantly, it marked the realization of all of those hours spent rehabbing, overcoming the doubts as to whether or not he would ever pitch again in the majors.
At this stage of his career, Ryan Madson may not be anything more than an end of the bullpen arm, someone who comes in and pitches in a mop up role or to give the key members of the relief corp a night off. However, just the fact that he was able to get back out on the mound and have success is a true testament to the ideal of never giving up and pushing onward despite the odds.
In a way, Madson may be the living embodiment of the Kansas City Royals. This scrappy team that managed to defy the odds for virtually all of last season still finds themselves overlooked by the national pundits. Last year was considered an aberration, an unrepeatable accomplishment in this day of power and offensive production. The Royals cannot possibly ride that contact, speed and defense model to contention again, right?
As the Royals look to find a way to buck the odds and silence the naysayers, they find themselves with someone that may be able to serve as an inspiration right there in the bullpen. After having three seasons completely washed out due to injury, Ryan Madson has proven that the improbable is possible. After last night, even if he struggles the rest of the way, the comeback is complete.