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Sunday June 20, 2010 2:39 am

The Litsch is back




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Jesse LitschToronto pitcher Jesse Litsch made a statement on Saturday; and that statement is that he is back. Returning from the dreaded Tommy John Surgery in June of 2009, Litsch threw seven innings of three hit baseball with zero walks and zero runs allowed against the San Francisco Giants. For those paying attention, he is actually back as of last Sunday, but the right-hander got lit up against the Rockies, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits in 2.1 innings.

Neither start is indicative of the true Jesse Litsch, but Saturday’s start was far closer to it. A stocky, finesse pitcher who relies on his startlingly impressive cutter more than almost any other pitcher in baseball, Litsch is somehow easily forgettable. In 2008, he set a Blue Jays record for most consecutive innings pitched without walking a batter, doing so as the fifth starter in a rotation behind Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, when some actually thought he might be comparable to the two staff leaders. Litsch was only 23 years old when he did it.

From Pinellas Park, Florida, Litsch got his first taste of the majors as a batboy for the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a school internship program. Fast forward, Litsch was taken in the 24th round (717th overall) in the 2004 Amateur Draft. He made his MLB pitching debut in 2007 and returned to Florida to take on the Rays in July of that year and shut them out over 6.2 innings, giving up only seven hits and one walk.

Tommy John Surgery still sounds scary, but not nearly as scary as it used to be. The fear factor now associated with the surgery is the 12-18 month recovery time more so than the expectancy to come back at all. Most pitchers do, many as good, if not stronger than before. It is still very early to evaluate Litsch’s results, but if he can find the form he had been shown in 2008, when he was 13-9 with a 3.58 ERA (13th in AL), 99 Ks, 1.23 WHIP, and only walked 39 in 176 innings, he can find himself topping a major league pitching rotation in just a very short while from now.

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