Here is a bittersweet look back at the 2014 season of Chris Withrow, who was building a promising campaign before getting wiped out by a right elbow injury.
What went right
The live-armed former first-round pick saw more success in the bullpen at the beginning of 2014, just like he ended 2013. Withrow struck out 32 percent of batters faced in his rookie campaign, then followed it up with a 31.1-percent rate in 2014.
Among the 701 major league pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings total in 2013-2014, Withrow's 31.7-percent strikeout rate ranks 13th.
Withrow put up a 2.95 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 20 relief appearances, with 28 strikeouts in 21⅓ innings, and held opposing batters to hitting .143/.322/.229.
The right-hander worked his way up into high-leverage outings in the seventh and eighth innings, and started the year with 12 strikeouts against only two walks.
What went wrong
After that great start with 12 strikeouts and two walks, plus no runs allowed, Withrow had as many walks (16) as strikeouts in his next 14 games, with eight runs allowed. Though five of those runs came in one game, on May 17 in Arizona.
Withrow walked 18 of 90 major league batters faced in 2014, after 13 walks in 134 batters in 2013.
That outing was the penultimate outing for Withrow, who was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on May 21. But after a week Withrow hadn't yet reported to the Isotopes, and it was revealed that he had an elbow injury. Withrow tore his UCL, and had Tommy John surgery on June 3, ending his season.
Game of the year
In a game that perfectly encapsulated Withrow's strengths and weaknesses, he walked the bases loaded in the eighth inning against the Rockies on April 26, with a 6-2 lead but Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki looming with one out. After getting himself into a great mess, Withrow needed nine pitches to strikeout Colorado's two best hitters, both swinging.
"You can match him up with anybody," manager Don Mattingly said after the game. "Right there, at CarGo and Tulo, it just felt like if you were going to get through those two guys, you want a guy with that kind of stuff."
The injury will likely sideline Withrow until the All-Star break in 2015, so he'll be on the disabled list for three to four months of 2015. Withrow has one year, 132 days of service time, and one option year remaining.