Chance meeting lands Scott Elarton another shot at the majors

Scott Elarton ran into Ruben Amaro Jr., shaped up, and earned a minor-league contract and an invitation to spring training.
Scott Elarton ran into Ruben Amaro Jr., shaped up, and earned a minor-league contract and an invitation to spring training. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 10, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Involuntarily retired Scott Elarton took his 7-year-old son, Kenan, to a baseball game at Coors Field last summer because he wanted to reconnect with some of his former big-league teammates who were playing with the Phillies.

He got to see Cliff Lee, a teammate in Cleveland, and Raul IbaƱez, a teammate in Kansas City, and Roy Oswalt, a teammate in Houston.

Eventually, he also ran into Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. behind the batting cage and popped a question he had no intention of asking when he left his suburban Denver home that day.

"What do you think the chances of me ever pitching again are?" Elarton said.

"Get in shape and I'll send somebody to watch you throw," Amaro responded.

He had an arm in the door.

As it turned out, Amaro watched Elarton's throwing session in mid-November because he was in Denver to see centerfielder Shane Victorino receive the Branch Rickey Award.

"He was about 25 minutes away from where I was staying, and I drove out there and I saw him throw," Amaro said. "It looked like he was throwing OK. I did a little iPhone action and sent the video back to our guys, and we decided to give him a chance."

The Phillies signed him to a minor-league contract and invited him to big-league spring training.

"He was a pretty good pitcher back in the day when he was going good," Amaro said.

Back in the day was quite some time ago for the 36-year-old righthander and, by his own admission, Elarton never lived up to the expectations bestowed upon him as Houston's 1994 first-round draft pick.

Elarton did not pitch anywhere last season unless you count batting practice for the local high school team where he was a volunteer assistant coach. He didn't pitch in 2009 either. He did appear in 16 games for the Chicago White Sox's triple-A Charlotte affiliate in 2010, but that experience just helped to convince him that his career was over.

"I haven't really been anywhere at all for three years," Elarton said. "I was with the White Sox in Charlotte for about six weeks, but I couldn't walk. I had foot surgery that didn't work so well. Once the foot didn't heal right, I had pretty much moved on. I had resigned myself to the fact that it was over.

"Then I woke up one day, and the foot felt good, and the arm felt really good. I had been throwing a whole bunch of BP with the baseball team I was coaching and playing basketball and working out. I had let myself get fat after the surgery, and that didn't feel good, so I started working out again and the wheels just started turning."

His serendipitous trip to Coors Field last summer led to what Elarton calls his "third last chance" in baseball.

Some of the things that happened during his other opportunities make Elarton cringe.

"I didn't have a lot of high points in my career," he said. "It was a battle the whole time."

He battled injuries, including three shoulder operations, and immaturity.

"It was a cycle of get injured, have surgery, and the battle to get back," he said. "Then I would get back and have varied levels of success and another injury would come along. I didn't always handle things in the smartest way.

"I always rushed back from surgery instead of taking my time. I always thought I could pitch whether I was healthy or not and that wasn't the best approach. Off the field, I just didn't treat myself very well. I did a lot of drinking and running around and that stuff. Now, I don't do any of those things and I don't miss it."

Walk into the Phillies clubhouse and you can't help but notice the 6-foot-7 veteran with a perpetual smile on his face. There are two rectangular tables in the spacious room. One is typically occupied by the younger players and the other accommodates the veterans.

Elarton sits at both.

"I feel like I fit at both," he said.

He is a 10-year veteran, but he also is fighting to prove he belongs.

Elarton made his spring debut Monday, throwing two perfect innings against the New York Yankees.

He is scheduled to follow Joe Blantoninto Saturday's game against Baltimore.

"It was fun," he said of Monday's outing. "I'm pretty intense when I'm out there, so my definition of fun may be a little bit different than others, but I felt that was where I belonged and that's what I should be doing right now. Now, I need to build on that and be prepared to do the best I can and let the chips fall where they may."


Contact Inquirer staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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