Connolly first experienced “dead arm” symptoms in spring training. After inflammation was discovered in early April, he received a cortisone shot and did not pitch again until May 26, several days ahead of his originally scheduled return date (June 1).
Eventually, the 12-game winner from last season opted for surgery.
“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Connolly said of the operation. “When I first got the shot, I came back, pitched from the bullpen and felt fine. I made a few starts and then the shots started to wear off.”
Connolly became the second West Tenn pitcher to undergo season-ending surgery. In April, right-hander Rocky Cherry made only three starts before being shut down for the year. Cherry had allowed three earned runs in his first two starts with the Jaxx and then threw only eight pitches in his third outing (April 21 against Tennessee) before exiting. He would need “Tommy John.”
Connolly’s setback is unfortunate, though it likely won’t keep him sidelined for as long as Cherry. The operation was performed in Chicago on Friday by Dr. Stephen Gryzlo. By Saturday, Connolly was already in Mesa, Ariz., where he’ll take up residence for the next several months.
“I sort of knew it was coming,” Connolly admitted. “I went in and had a 15 to 20 percent tear in my rotator cuff. I had some strain on my labrum from a previous surgery when I was younger. They cleaned it all up and now I’ll be here all offseason.”
Connolly was 3-2 with a 4.44 ERA in nine appearances with the Jaxx. He made four starts and last appeared on June 28 from the bullpen. He is two seasons removed from being named Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher of the year in 2003, and one season from posting the Florida State League’s best ERA (2.59) for a minimum of 112 innings pitched in Class High-A ball.
“It’s a part of the game,” said an upbeat Connolly. “You can’t get down and you can’t be bitter about it. My main focus is to get healthy.”
Connolly has already received some good news about the operation. According to Gryzlo, the Oneonta, N.Y., native should be able to resume throwing in three to four months. Connolly doesn’t typically begin his throwing sessions in the offseason until December, and he hopes to be ready to pitch again by spring training of next year.
The hardest part about currently being in Arizona?
“My wife is still in Jackson. She’s going to be there until we can take care of our apartment there. She’ll move out here at the end of September.”
Connolly won’t be alone until then, however. In addition to Cherry, among the familiar faces also rehabbing in Mesa are INF Jemel Spearman and OF Aron Weston (wrist injuries). Right-hander Chadd Blasko is also there after having surgery as well.
“This season was tough, because my arm never really felt 100 percent,” Connolly said. “The goal was to get through this season with the cortisone shots, but that didn't work out.
“Besides, I figure it’s better to get it over with.”