Shane Komine: Coming Back Strong

Shane Komine is not a quitter. He's heard that he is too small to be a pitcher his entire life, but that didn't stop him from becoming a prolific collegiate hurler and a rising prospect in the minor leagues. Even Tommy John surgery couldn't deter the Hawaiian right-hander. "My parents raised me to believe that you should never start something that you don't finish," Komine said. With a strong showing in the AFL, Komine appears to be one step away from reaching the end-goal: the major leagues.

Shane Komine likes to surf, so perhaps it is only fitting that he has been riding a wave of positive momentum since he arrived on the AA-Midland Rockhounds' roster in August. It was Komine's third stint with the Texas League ballclub, but he wasn't complaining. After all, it was only a year earlier that he had been in the midst of a long rehabilitation after Tommy John surgery to his right elbow.

"The rehab was a really long process. It taught me a lot about patience. You can't push yourself too hard because any wrong move can dislodge the ligament again," Komine said.

"It was hardest for me when I was back home in Hawaii and I wasn't able to surf or to play golf."

Komine was pitching with the Rockhounds at the time he got hurt and he was shelved for good after making 17 starts for Midland in 2004. He missed much of the 2005 season, as well, finally getting into action for the A's Rookie League team in late June. He made four starts in Phoenix and then was sent to High-A Stockton, where he continued to re-build the strength in his elbow. After two starts with the Ports, Komine was sent back to AA-Midland, just in time for the pennant race.

Komine's arrival in Midland couldn't have come at a better time for the Rockhounds, who had just lost staff stalwarts Dallas Braden and Jason Windsor to arm fatigue. Komine made five regular season starts with Midland, going 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 31.1 innings pitched. He then helped guide the Rockhounds through the playoffs to a Texas League Championship.

Komine was rewarded for that performance with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where his success continued. He posted a 1.14 ERA and a K:BB of 18:3 in 23.2 innings for the championship-winning Phoenix Desert Dogs. For Komine, the reward for all of his hard work rehabbing the elbow paid off in spades, with two championship rings.

"Those were my first two championships in professional ball, so it was a lot of fun. It was a really great group of guys on both teams. Knowing where I was last year at that time and where I am now, it is a great feeling to have been a part of all of that," Komine said.

After the AFL season concluded, Komine received some more good news when he learned that he was placed on the A's 40-man roster for the first time. He is also currently participating in the MLB Rookie Career Development Program as one of the A's two representatives. The program is designed for players who may be making their major league debuts within the next year. In the past, the A's have sent major league-ready players such as Huston Street and Bobby Crosby to the four-day seminar. This year, Komine is accompanying top A's prospect Daric Barton.

"It has been great for me. I'm not getting any younger, so it was important to take that next step [to be named to the 40-man roster]," Komine said. "My mindset really changed after the surgery. It made me appreciate baseball a lot more. Things have worked out perfectly. I couldn't be happier."

Being on the 40-man roster comes with an invitation to major league spring training, where Komine hopes he can make a good impression on the A's coaching staff.

"I don't have any real high expectations for this season [in terms of making the major league roster out of spring training] because I know that [the A's] have a great pitching staff. Hopefully, I'll get there and pitch well and open some eyes for any opportunities that might open up," Komine said.

Tommy John surgery often takes 12-14 months for a player to recover from completely, and Komine believes that he hit that total recovery around the start of the Arizona Fall League season. He says that he is now 100% and that he was throwing his fastball in the 90-95 range consistently during the AFL season.

Komine has always had surprising velocity on his fastball for his size (he stands at only 5'9''), and that velocity has helped him rack-up strikeouts at a high rate throughout much of his career. In college at the University of Nebraska, Komine struck out 510 batters in only 427 innings pitched. His proclivity for the strikeout earned him a nickname from the publication Baseball America, "Hawaiian Punch-out". The nickname has followed him over the years, and he has even received a few Hawaiian Punch tee-shirts for Christmas.

"It's cool. Anytime you get a nickname, it means that people are paying attention to you. I think it's kind of funny," Komine said.

That publications like Baseball America were paying attention to Komine is a testament to his fortitude. Despite his plus-stuff (a low to mid-90s heavy fastball, a 12-6 curveball and an effective change-up), Komine's pursuit of his major league dream has always been met with skepticism from scouts and other talent evaluators because of his height.

"Definitely growing up I heard from scouts and coaches a lot about my size and how I wasn't going to be able to play college ball and then later I heard from people who said I'd never be able to make it as a big league player because I wasn't the prototypical size. It has driven me to push myself a lot harder and to never give up," Komine said.

The right-hander says that he looks at Pedro Martinez as an example of a smaller pitcher who made it big at the major league level. He could also very well look to former Oakland A's ace Tim Hudson for inspiration, as Komine and Hudson have similar builds (Hudson is a little taller and Komine is a little more muscular) and pitching repertoires. However, both Martinez and Hudson have battled injuries during their careers in part due to their size, something Komine has also experienced during his career. Komine's injury history has led some experts to speculate that his future is in the bullpen, even though he has been a starting pitcher for most of his career.

"I don't know whether I'll be in a starter or in the bullpen long-term. A lot probably depends on what my body can handle. How ever I can get up there [to the big leagues] is fine by me, whether it is as a starter, long reliever or short reliever," Komine said.

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