Ferguson: Rooting for Bush in his comeback attempt with Jays

Scott Ferguson
2/8/2013 1:38:21 PM
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If you're anything like me, you're a sucker for a long shot comeback story. I was looking over the list of non-roster players the Toronto Blue Jays have invited to Spring Training at Dunedin, and saw a right-hander I recognized, David Bush.

Bush was drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the June Amateur Draft back in 2002 and went (10-15) during two seasons with the Jays. His most memorable start was his third Major League appearance: on July 20th, 2004 he pitched seven and a third innings of no-hit ball against Oakland before Damian Miller broke him off with a single.

In December of 2005, Bush was part of a five-player deal with Milwaukee that included outfielder Gabe Gross and pitcher Zach Jackson go to the “Brew Crew” for 1B Lyle Overbay and pitcher Ty Taubenheim.

While with the Brewers, he twice more flirted with no-hitters. In July of 2008, ironically against the Blue Jays, Bush pitched seven no-hit innings before one of the players he was traded for – Overbay - ended the bid with a triple.

On April 23rd, 2009, Bush went seven and a third against the Phillies on the road, before ex-Jay Matt Stairs touched him for a solo homer off the foul pole to end that shot at no-hit immortality.

After that Bush's career began to wane. When his time in Milwaukee was winding down, he gave up four straight homers in one game against Arizona, joining Paul Foytack and Chase Wright as only the third ever to accomplish this dubious feat. Bush had brief shots with the Rangers, Cubs, and Phillies organizations in 2011, before opting to sign with a Korean team where he spent the 2012 season.

The Blue Jays have loaded up with arms in the wake of the injury plagued disaster of a season they had a year ago. At 33-years-old now, Bush will probably be a depth starter at Buffalo in Triple A at best. But wouldn't it be something if he made it back to the "bigs" with his original team nearly eight years after being dealt away. It's just one story to watch over the course of Spring Training and the regular season.

One pitcher who likely won't be coming back is former Blue Jays right-hander Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals and "Carp" confirmed this week he likely won't be able to pitch at all this season because of the same shoulder and arm numbness caused by a nerve issue that cost him the bulk of the 2012 season. At 37, it's not likely Carpenter will pitch again.

The Blue Jays have often been criticized for letting Carpenter leave as a free agent. After the 2002 season, concerned about his arm troubles, the Jays opted not to re-sign their former first-round draft pick (15th overall, 1993). St. Louis jumped in and signed him for $300,000 for the 2003 season.

Carpenter had to sit out that entire year, but taking a chance paid off for the Redbirds when he returned in 2004 and went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA.

He went on to have a stellar career with St. Louis going 95-44 with a 3.07 earned run average, three All-Star appearances, a Cy Young award  in 2005, a Comeback Player of the Year Award and two World Series titles. Carpenter also became a vocal team leader as anyone who saw the 2011 World Series can attest.

Yes, the Blue Jays let him go. But at that point in career, his record as a Jay was only (49-50) with a 4.83 ERA. It was a tough call for then GM J.P Ricciardi, especially considering Carpenter's close friendship with then Jays ace Roy Halladay. But the Jays really had no way of projecting Carpenter would return to become one of the top pitchers in the National League.

We should mention though, the next time the Blue Jays encountered a similar circumstance, they held on to that pitcher. Dustin McGowan, who some called the next "Halladay" went down with a shoulder injury in July of 2008 right after the All-Star break. He's had a litany of injuries ever since.

Thinking he had finally recovered, the Jays signed McGowan to a two-year extension with an option for 2015 last season. Though he hasn't given up the fight, there is no guarantee he will ever pitch for the Blue Jays again.

So the Jays go one way with Carpenter and lose and go the other way with McGowan and so far have nothing to show for their efforts.

Still, it's a good time to salute the career of Carpenter and the lack of quit in McGowan.

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