For Karsay, You Can Go Home Again

When Steve Karsay debuted in Oakland, there was no such thing as inter-league play, third-deck tarps or Mt. Davis. The Oakland A's were the kings of baseball at that time, as they were just coming off of a stretch of four post-season appearances in five years. The A's dynasty ended around the same time as Karsay's arrival, and four years later, Karsay, too, would be out of town. He would go on to find glory as an important reliever for winning teams in Cleveland, Atlanta and New York.

Now Steve Karsay is back in Oakland, hoping to help guide his old team to a place he has been with other franchises, the playoffs.

Thirteen years ago, Steve Karsay was a phenom. He was considered a prize acquisition when A's GM Sandy Alderson shipped Rickey Henderson to the Toronto Blue Jays for the Blue Jays' drive to a World Series title.

The Oakland A's are a franchise that has been built on pitching since arriving at the Coliseum in 1968, and Karsay was supposed to team up with then-recent number one pick and high school phenom Todd Van Poppel to carry the A's pitching staff for a decade.

Karsay made his major league debut with the A's in 1993 and showed flashes of brilliance in going 4-4 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts to end the year. He started the 1994 season like gangbusters, going 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. However, an elbow injury felled him after just four starts and he wouldn't pitch professionally again until 1996, when he made 14 starts for the Modesto A's in a rehab assignment.

In 1997, Karsay returned to the A's rotation, but things were different then they were in 1994. Oakland was far removed from a winning season and had the worst pitching staff in baseball. And Karsay, wounded from his injury, wasn't the same pitcher he had been in his first two seasons. He struggled to a 3-12 record in 24 starts and was shipped to Cleveland for reliever Mike Fetters.

It was in Cleveland that Karsay's career changed for the better. He was converted to the bullpen and took to the role well, winning a career-high 10 games in 50 appearances in 1999 and making 72 appearances for the Indians in 2000.

In 2001, he split the season between Cleveland and Atlanta and then signed a free agent contract in 2002 with his hometown New York Yankees.

Karsay was brilliant for the Yankees, appearing an amazing 78 times and posting a 3.26 ERA in 2002. However, the over-work brought on another rond of injuries, and Karsay would only make 27 major league appearances over the next three seasons.

Karsay signed a minor league contract with Cleveland in the off-season, but failed to make the team out of spring training. He was pitching well for AAA-Buffalo when he was traded to Oakland once again. Ironically, despite his injury history, seven trips to the disabled list later, Karsay rejoined the A's to solidify a bullpen ravished by injuries.

All told, Karsay has had four major surgeries. He underwent elbow surgeries in 1994 and 1995 and 1999, missed two entire seasons, had three other seasons with less than 30 innings, and was told after shoulder surgery in 2003 he didn't have a good chance to ever pitch again.

"I feel very fortunate; and I beat the odds a little," Karsay said.

"When (Dr. James) Andrews tells you something, you have a good conversation and he lets you know. He's the one inside your shoulder and piecing it back together. I believed him, but I never accepted it."

What keeps him going after so much surgery and rehab?

"Being competitive and having a taste of being in the playoffs and wanting to win a World Series," said Karsay.

"That's fueled my fire and kept me going.

"We have a good young ballclub here. They play hard, I watch them on TV all the time. I feel like I'm in a good spot to be a piece of the puzzle."

Karsay has made two appearances since arriving in Oakland, allowing one run in 2.1 innings of work. Since his arrival with the club on Tuesday, the A's have gone 4-0, sweeping Seattle and taking the first game against cross-town rival San Francisco.


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