Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

Erickson's Troubles

September 2004

Scott Erickson tries to Hang on


This millennium hasn’t been kind to Scott Erickson. One of the game’s most durable starters throughout the 1990s, just getting to the mound this century has been a constant struggle for the 14-year veteran. And when he has, the results haven’t been particularly good.

From 1991-99, excluding the strike-shortened 1994 season, Erickson averaged roughly 14 wins and 220 innings pitched per season. Starting in 2000, virtually nothing has gone right. Pitching with a sore elbow, the Orioles’ starter limped out to a 5-8 start and 7.87 ERA that season before undergoing ligament replacement or "Tommy John" surgery in August to repair his right elbow. As a result, he spent all of the 2001 season on the disabled list.

Erickson returned in 2002 and was the Baltimore’s Opening Day starter, but hadn’t regained his old form. In late August, with his record at 5-12 and his ERA at 5.55, shoulder problems ended the right-hander’s season. In March of 2003, he underwent surgery to repair his torn right labrum. Another entire season was lost.

"The shoulder surgery is a little tougher, the elbow is more of a guarantee," said Erickson, now with the Texas Rangers organization. "The shoulder I think is more of a 50/50 surgery and they told me when I had the surgery that I might not make it back. So, simply the fact that I am here is pretty gratifying and satisfying to come back and win a game back at this level."

After two major surgeries and a pair of sub-par seasons, he surely must have pondered retirement. "No. Not at all," the veteran hurler responded when posed with that question. "I knew that for most people it maybe would be (a) tougher (decision), but I had no doubt in my mind that I would be back in the major leagues this year pitching."

Washed Up?

The 36-year-old signed a free agent contract with the Mets in February and was slated to start the season in the teams’ rotation. Instead, the black cat crossed Erickson’s path yet again. While warming up for what was supposed to be his first start of the year on April 8, he tweaked his left hamstring and was back on the DL. When he returned to action in mid July, he was so ineffective (0-1, 7.88 ERA) that the Mets designated him for assignment after just two starts. The Californian was, however, spared the indignity of being released when the Rangers traded for him three days later.

"I had a little set back at the beginning of the year with the leg injury in Atlanta and the rehab took a little longer than expected," Erickson commented. "I finally got called up with the Mets but really didn’t get much of a shot with two starts in two and a half weeks and luckily came to Texas whose right in the middle of the Wild Card and division title race. I am really happy they are giving me a chance, I am hoping to put things together in my next start and improve and be productive for the rest of the season."

But, he didn’t fare much better in the Lone Star state, going 1-4 with a 6.67 ERA in four starts before being designated for assignment on August 27. He is currently pitching at Triple A Oklahoma.

"(My arm) feels just as healthy (as before the surgeries), I am just lacking a little bit of arm speed which translates into a few miles short on the fastball," the former All Star explained. "(I am) probably averaging three to four to five miles an hour off what I used to prior to surgery. Hopefully, the more I throw the more the arm strength will come back."

Glory Days

In 1991, his first full major league season, Erickson ran off 12 straight wins from April to June, finished the season with a 20-8 record, helped the Minnesota Twins win a World Series, and finished second to Roger Clemens in the AL Cy Young award voting.

Of course, he remembers that year fondly, "There were so many great things," said Erickson, who started Game 6 of the World Series. "Our team won 15 in a row, we came in and beat Texas to end their winning streak and start our winning streak. The World Series in general -- there is nothing like experiencing getting to the World Series and winning it."

While their a several members of the 1991 Atlanta Braves, the NL champions that season (John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, etc.), Erickson wondered if he may be the last link to that great Twins team. "(Mark) Guthrie was in Spring Training this year. I talk to him on a regular basis -- haven’t in awhile, but we’re still friends -- but he hasn’t played this year. Knobby’s (Chuck Knoblauch) not playing this year. So possibly, I might be the only guy still playing from that team."

The game that once came so easily so quickly to Scott Erickson is now beating him down. He however, maintains that his attitude has not changed and that he will regain the form that made him a major league mainstay for a decade.

"For the first ten years it was a lot of hard work, a lot of devotion to the game, and love of the sport and playing baseball," the hard luck hurler commented. "I feel the same way now; my arm is just not at the same level. The last four years have been up and down as far as surgeries and the pain, but hopefully the rest of this year and next year I will be back to the consistency prior to both surgeries."

-David Zingler

Erickson's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

Erickson's page @ TexasRangers.com  


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