Longtime Tacoma Rainiers pitcher Brian Sweeney suffered an elbow injury while pitching at Cheney Stadium on Friday.
For the 39-year-old Sweeney, it wasn’t just a season-ending injury. It was potentially career-ending.
“I struck out a guy on a curveball, and my elbow kind of grabbed on me,” Sweeney said. “Every pitch after that hurt.”
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam showed a 50 percent tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, joint problems, and a flexor bundle strain.
This package of problems requires up to two months of rest, and then a strenuous rehabilitation program.
The 18-year veteran considered simply ending his career — but a meeting with his family changed that.
“When it happened it was an emotional time — I saw the end coming,” said Sweeney, who had not had an arm injury since 1998. “I sat down with my wife and kids, we said some prayers.”
At the urging of daughters Eva and Mia, Sweeney decided to go through the rehabilitation process, and try to latch on with a team in 2014.
“I’m a baseball player,” said Sweeney, who has not yet given much thought to his post-playing career. “I’m still doing that right now, and I want to continue that way.”
Sweeney has pitched in the major leagues with both Seattle and San Diego, and he spent three seasons pitching in Japan. However, his longest tenure has been with the Tacoma Rainiers.
Sweeney pitched for Tacoma in all or parts of seven seasons: 1999-2000, 2002-2003, 2010 and 2012-2013.
The change-up specialist ranks in a tie for fifth on the franchise’s all-time wins list, with 36 career victories – seven behind all-time leader Ron Herbel of the 1960s Tacoma Giants.
He ranks third on the all-time Tacoma strikeout list with 403 — a mere 40 away from Herbel, who leads that category as well.
Sweeney also ranks in the all-time Tacoma top 10 in games pitched, games started and innings pitched.
ADJUSTING TO DOUBLE-A
Power-hitting Mariners outfield prospect Jabari Blash appears to be making a good transition to the Double-A level since being promoted to Jackson from Advanced-A High Desert at the start of the month.
In his first 20 games for Jackson, Blash is batting .319 with six home runs and 11 RBI. He has drawn 13 walks, although he has struck out 22 times in 69 at-bats.
Blash hit .258 with 16 homers and 53 RBI in 80 games for High Desert. The jump from the hitter-friendly California League to Jackson is considered the most difficult adjustment to make for hitters in the Seattle farm system.
High Desert third baseman Patrick Kivelhan saw his 25-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-4 showing Friday.
During the streak, Kivelhan batted .437 with seven homers and 35 RBI. Overall, he’s batting .341 with 12 homers in 59 games for the Mavericks.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.