Revolution sign former Orioles left-hander Waters
A part of this story will likely put a smile on the faces of York Revolution fans, while sending a feeling of disappointment over to those Lancaster Barnstormers fans across the Susquehanna River.
It wasn’t a ‘War of the Roses’-style clash the way Chris Waters tells the tale, but it sounds as though the two clubs mentioned above were the two choices the former Baltimore Orioles starter recently decided between.
In Lancaster, Waters has a friend in Barnstormers’ right-handed reliever Jeff Bennett. The two were teammates a couple years ago with the Milwaukee Brewers’ Class AAA Nashville club.
In York, there’s formers Revs’ pitcher Jason Richardson, who is spending his summer in York rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Richardson and Waters played together in the 1990s at Lake Gibson (Fla.) High School and later were teammates in 2004 and 2005 with the Atlanta Braves’ High Class A Myrtle Beach ball club. Revs’ pitching coach Mark Mason was aware of Waters being on the open market back in spring training, and had Richardson follow up with the left-hander in the last couple weeks.
“Jeff Bennett called me from Lancaster and asked me if I wanted to play there,” Waters said in the Revs’ clubhouse Wednesday night. “He called me and I tried to get back with him. He never answered and then J-Rich (Richardson) called me and said ‘Hey, we (York) just got rid of a lefty, why don’t you come here?’ So, I came on board.”
Waters was referring to Jesus Sancez, who York released on , who the Cincinnati Reds picked up on June 5. The Revs have been searching for his replacement ever since. York announced the signings of Waters on Wednesday afternoon, and he will eventually fill the void left by Feierabend.
Tommy John: Now 31, Waters is 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery to his throwing elbow. But the southpaw didn’t suffer the injury in typical fashion. Rather, it was caused in 2010 when Waters was at-bat while playing in a game for Nashville against Albuquerque, the Class AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. An Albuquerque pitcher drilled Waters in his throwing arm with a pitch.
“It was a lefty that couldn’t really pitch to lefties,” Waters said. “First one was over my head at 96 (miles an hour). The next I did this (motioning like he was getting out of the way of the pitch) and it hit me. He (the pitcher) got out of the game before I could return the favor.”
That happened in a game in August 2010, and Waters soon found out his arm had a problem when he tried continuing to pitch. It wouldn’t be until March 22, 2011 when he went under the knife.
Been there, done that: Waters has been down a similar road before in trying to get to the big leagues. A former fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2000, Waters tore the labral and rotator cuff in his throwing arm early in the 2004 season when playing for Myrtle Beach. But it turned out to help Waters in the long run.
“I went from throwing hard to not throwing so hard and having to learn how to pitch,” he said.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Waters learned how to develop some off-speed pitches, going from a fastball and curve ball before shoulder surgery to later developing a cutter, slider, curve ball and a change-up.
“It was actually a blessing in disguise, you would say. I made it back in (2005) and stayed with Atlanta through 2006 and then went to the Orioles,” Waters said.
The lefty finally reached the big leagues with the O’s in 2008, posting a 3-5 record and 5.01 ERA in 11 starts. One of his highlights that season was starting in the final game at the original Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008 opposite Andy Pettitte. Waters took the loss in a 7-3 defeat, surrendering the final two home runs, one a three-run shot to Johnny Damon and the other to two-run homer to Jose Molina.
“It was surreal. I spent nine years in pro ball trying to get there,” Waters said. “When you first sign, it’s a dream and you feel like you’re right around the corner. And then after shoulder surgery it’s a grind of everyday playing. It started kind of fading and then once I got that new life with the Orioles, I started pitching well and developed a cutter. It really took off from there.”
He made it back to the big leagues with Baltimore again in 2009, compiling a 5.40 ERA over four relief appearances and one start.
Starting over: Despite the troubles he’s gone through over the last 16 months in recovering from TJ surgery, Waters said thoughts of retirement haven’t entered his mind.
“The way it happened the year before (in 2009) I had just gotten out of the big leagues. It felt like there was something left in the tank. After rehabbing, it (the arm) felt really good. We’ll see what happens.”
Revs’ manager Andy Etchebarren said the plan is to bring Waters out of the bullpen in his first couple appearances with York before transitioning him into the starting rotation.
If Waters turns out to be anything of his former self, the move could pay off big time for York, especially considering Atlantic League Freedom Division rival Lancaster almost snagged the lefty.
Bonus notes: Richardson was a year ahead of Waters at Lake Gibson High School, Richardson a starter and Waters a reliever. So, the two have switched roles.
The duo faced each other in the Appalachian League Championship Series (short-season rookie league) in 2000 in their first years as pros, Richardson playing for Elizabethton (Twins) and Waters with Danville (Braves). Danville was making its first ever playoff appearance. Elizabethton was led by Adam LaRoche and won the best-of-three series by winning the first two games.
“We faced each other (when I was) in Danville in the championship game,” Waters said. “(Richardson) got the ring.”