The mound is elevated ten inches, but to Matt Harrison it must have felt like a ten-mile high mountain he just scaled. He wasn’t sharp, but he was there, and that’s what mattered.
Forget about last night’s game.
The Rangers are in a free fall, and sometimes outcomes don’t matter. Sometimes the story is the story.
Nobody had ever come back from the hip surgery Colby Lewis had that caused him to miss all of 2013. But Colby was always a bulldog of a competitor. Never the most gifted pitcher, he always seemed to have more fight in him than the next guy.
Unless, maybe, that next guy is Matt Harrison. He is attempting to do something that nobody has ever done before, to come back from spinal fusion surgery. But after a year and a half of recovery, Matt Harrison made his long-awaited debut last night in Arlington.
He is one of the good guys.
Evan Grant wrote a great article about Matt Harrison’s comeback in yesterday’s DallasNews.com.
He details the long bumpy road Harrison journeyed down: “The long process included a spinal fusion surgery in his lower lumbar area, long periods of having to remain still and very small incremental progress towards pitching.”
It sounds like the pain and suffering were as much mental as they were physical.
His rehab starts were unspectacular, to say the least. (A 6.23 ERA, in fact.) But the story isn’t about last night or the last month on the mound. The story is the journey to last night.
Matt Harrison was the guy left off the World Series roster in 2010, and that had to have crushed him. It would have crushed anyone.
But he didn’t respond by sulking or badmouthing the club or phoning it in or demanding a trade. He responded the way guys of the character of Matt Harrison respond. By proving everyone wrong.
He had a strong 2011, going 14-9 with a very good 3.39 ERA. Then followed that up with an even stronger 2012, winning 18 games on the strength of a 3.39 ERA.
This guy was ticketed for top of the rotation stardom. He signed a five-year, $55 million contract. Then everything fell apart.
He went into 2013 as the Opening Day starter. He made just two starts before needing three operations to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.
He tried to come back in 2014, said he felt 100%, but his spine didn’t back him up. He ended up making just four starts before needing spinal fusion surgery, and the same frustration and heartache set in once again.
But he didn’t give up.
I wish everyone wearing a Rangers uniform could say the same thing.