ORLANDO, Fla. — Jeff Ridgway isn’t ready to throw away the rosin bag just yet.
Released by the Atlanta Braves last week, the 1999 Port Angeles High School graduate said during a telephone conversation Friday night that he’s not done chasing his big league baseball dreams.
Ridgway said he is as determined as ever to get back to the majors — despite the fact he came out of the fifth surgery of his career hours beforehand.
“This definitely isn’t the end yet,” said Ridgway, who had his left elbow operated on for the second time in sixth months on Friday.
“I’m going to play until they take the ball from me, and it’s not time yet.”
The 28-year-old lefty relief pitcher struggled through a couple of outings during spring training.
In his final relief appearance, a three-run showing against Venezuela, the discomfort in his throwing elbow became too much to handle, he said.It was the same one from which Braves doctors had removed loose pieces of bone in September.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why do I stand out here and keep beating a dead horse when it feels like there’s something wrong?'” he said.
He didn’t take the mound again in his final three weeks with the team.
Still loose bone
Upon his release, a Tampa Bay Rays doctor discovered there was still some loose bone in the elbow, which was removed during Friday’s operation.
“It was just a matter of me trying to come back way too soon after not enough was done [during the first surgery],” Ridgway said.
Now Ridgway must rehabilitate once again.
He plans to head to Tempe, Ariz., next week to work with a rehab specialist for four months, all of it on the Braves’ expense account thanks to worker’s compensation.
If everything goes well, he might get back on the mound by the end of the season.
His agent has already received phone calls from several ball clubs, Ridgway said, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Florida Marlins.
“Getting the calls was huge for me,” Ridgway said.
“I’ve had all this stuff before, so it’s just a matter of finding the right way to go.
“I can’t rule out [pitching this season] right now, but it’s up in the air. I’ve been out a full season before. The only difference is I just don’t have a job right now.”
January 2008 trade
The Braves acquired Ridgway from Tampa Bay — the franchise he made his major league debut with in September 2007 — in a January 2008 trade.
He was called up twice by the Braves last season, posting a 3.72 ERA in 10 relief appearances for Atlanta.
He earned his first major league win on Sept. 13 against the Mets, but his season came to an end immediately afterward when the elbow problems were discovered.
“I don’t want to end my career in Shea Stadium getting a win against the Mets, especially when I know I can still get guys out,” Ridgway said.
“Basically for me there is a mental switch. It’s either on or off, and it’s never been off for me. Until it goes off I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone.
“I don’t think I have much to worry about. Coming into this spring I’ve never been in that good of shape in my entire life.
“I’ve never taken the game for granted and I’ve never had the attitude that baseball owes me anything.”