Sarfate comes on strong after surgery
Reliever recovering from fractured clavicle, looking forward
BALTIMORE -- You'll have to pardon Dennis Sarfate for noticing the simple things. The reliever, who's seven weeks removed from surgery to repair a fracture in his right clavicle, said recently that his return to health is going about as well as he could expect and that doctors have told him he should be fully healthy once the Orioles report to Spring Training.
"I can pick up my daughter now without any pain," said Sarfate, who suffered the injury in April. "I've kind of mocked a throwing motion and it feels way better than it did. When I had the surgery done, [the doctor] said there was a little bit more in there than he thought. I guess when the bone started healing, it started fraying away some of the other stuff. But it's strong now."
Sarfate is set to visit renowned surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum this weekend to chart out the rest of his rehabilitation, but he said he has full range of motion and can get his arm way over his head. The operative plan is to begin throwing in mid-December, which is roughly around the same time he'd pick up a baseball if he hadn't been injured at all.
Then again, he'd probably have been through his rehab already if he had dealt with his injury earlier. Sarfate, who pitched hurt for most of the season, didn't tell the team officials about his ailment until September, and they promptly shut him down. The right-hander, who wound up with a 4.74 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .218 batting average, said he'd do it all over again.
"I think I still would've pitched," he said. "I didn't want to just quit. I'm still upset that I had to finish the year on the disabled list and go about it that way. I wanted to finish the year. I had never been on the DL before during the season and I wanted to finish strong. But I just did it and it got to the point where it started hurting more and more. I didn't want to cause any more serious damage. Now that there's more [damage] than the doctor originally thought, I'm glad I had it done when I did.
"It's definitely a thing I look back on and don't regret pitching through it. I can only get better."
That's a reassuring thought for the Orioles, who utilized Sarfate in a number of roles last season. The rookie started four games and pitched both early and late relief, using his high-velocity fastball to give hitters a different look. Sarfate will likely be used as a middle-inning bridge next season, his second with the Orioles and his second in the American League.
And now that he's healthy -- not to mention in a comfortable environment -- he expects to perform much better. Sarfate, who was acquired from Houston in last winter's trade for Miguel Tejada, said that he's looking forward to getting back to business.
"I think that just takes a lot off me," he said of returning to Baltimore. "Last year, I had a lot going on. My wife was pregnant and we were going to have a baby during the season. Now, just knowing my role and knowing what I have to do, I can prepare for that. Spring Training's not going to be an audition. It's going to be straight getting ready for 162 games.
"I like where we're going and I think we're going to make some pretty good moves this offseason. I've kept in touch with Jim Johnson and I've talked to Matt Albers. We're all excited because we're young and we're doing this thing together. I think everyone's pretty much excited about next year, and for me, it's more of a comfort level I can go get to."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.