Walking the whole ballpark doesn't make Johnny Rocker red
How many walks can a LI Duck chuck?
BRIDGEPORT, CT (Hartford Courant) April 29 2005 -- Two years removed from rotator cuff surgery, and almost six years since his infamous bout of foot-in-mouth disease, John Rocker is trying to get back to the major leagues. And, of all places, he's starting his comeback in New York.
Rocker, 30, is a Long Island Duck now, and the team made its 2005 Atlantic League debut Thursday against Bridgeport at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard - the first game of the rest of Rocker's life.
Results-wise, Rocker's debut wasn't pretty. The lefthander, who starred in the late 1990s with the Atlanta Braves, entered a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth and walked four of the six men he faced. The last walk, to pinch hitter William Pennyfeather, forced home the winning run in a 4-3 Bluefish victory.
But the only result Rocker sought was how his repaired left shoulder handled 31 pitches in the damp and cold. As that went, Rocker declared the evening a critical success in his comeback bid.
"My wing felt good," said Rocker, who had rotator cuff surgery in July 2003. "I basically just wanted to see what kind of stuff I had. This was my first game action in about 20 months, with the fans and atmosphere and the lights, it was the first time in a long time. That's all I wanted to see, get the first outing under my belt, good or bad. I'll start throwing strikes. Command is always the last thing to come for a power pitcher."
"I was very encouraged that on my second hitter I didn't blow my shoulder out again," said Rocker, who was mildly booed by the crowd of 4,061 during pregame introductions.
Rocker says that his travails have taught him newfound respect for "kids with purple hair, queers with AIDS, some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time and a 20-year-old mom with four kids", because he knows now he wouldn't be able to get any of them out.