Drucker On The Comeback Trail

Right-hander Scot Drucker missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in April. While he was out, he watched many of his former teammates make their major league debuts. After a long rehabilitation, he is back in minor league camp and is hoping to make a move towards the major leagues himself in 2008.

Leading up to the 2007 season, it seemed likely that right-hander Scot Drucker was going to make the jump from High-A to Double-A. The A's 13th round pick in the 2004 draft out of Tennessee was one of the High-A Stockton Ports' most reliable relievers during the second-half of the 2006 season. During the first three months of the season, Drucker struggled with Stockton, mostly as a starter. From April through June, he had a 6.75 ERA in 73 innings for the Ports. However, he turned his season around when he took a more permanent role in the bullpen. From July through September, Drucker appeared in 22 games and posted a 2.70 ERA in 40 innings.

While preparing for the 2007 season, however, Drucker began to feel some discomfort in his throwing shoulder. He contacted the A's and they had him see a doctor, who discovered that Drucker had a tear in his labrum.

"They noticed that there was what they call a SLAP lesion, which is a possible tear in the labrum. At that point, it wasn't really enough of a tear to go into surgery," Drucker said.

"They had me do six weeks of rehab at a local facility in Miami. The rehab was mostly normal baseball stretching with the bands and the cuffs and weights that are meant to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff."

Unfortunately for Drucker, the discomfort in his throwing shoulder didn't abate even after the six weeks of rehab, and he was forced to go under the knife on April 25th. The recovery from surgery on a torn labrum is generally 10 to 12 months, so as soon as Drucker had the surgery he knew that his 2007 season was over and that he had a long rehabilitation ahead of him.

"It took about five or six months following the surgery [to regain full range of motion in the throwing shoulder]. Those first two or three months after the surgery, they really work you hard stretching, breaking up the scar tissue," Drucker said.

"I was always in contact with Oakland to make sure that I was doing what they wanted me to do. So it was about five or six months until I got my full range of motion, at which point I was able to start my throwing program. I am almost at a year right now with my rehab."

Thus far, all signs are positive that Drucker will make a full recovery from the surgery. He reported on-time to A's minor-league camp and has been throwing according to his normal spring program.

"Everything is really good. I threw a bullpen yesterday and everything went smoothly. I have been getting my normal treatment in the morning, which is mostly stretching, nothing too bad. Everything has been going really well," Drucker said.

Drucker didn't waste his year away from the game. He returned to Knoxville to complete his final set of classes for his degree from the University of Tennessee, which he is set to receive this spring after he completes an internship he is working on currently. Drucker, who interned at a sports marketing firm during the 2006 off-season with a possible eye towards a post-baseball career in business, got a lot out of his time back in the classroom.

"It was different. I went back up there, of course, as an older guy. In some ways, I am a lot more mature now and so I was actually interested in the classes and was getting something out of it," Drucker said.

While Drucker was in Knoxville, he continued his rehabilitation with a physical therapist and worked out with a number of other ballplayers who were in-town for the winter, including top San Diego Padres prospect Chase Headley, top Kansas City Royals prospect Luke Hochevar and Minnesota Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan.

"It was a good group of guys that I was surrounded with out there and that helped me get back into the game. It was fun to work out with those guys," Drucker said.

Spending a year away from playing baseball gave Drucker a chance to take a step-back from the game and learn from watching it as a fan. While he was rehabbing, many of his friends and draft classmates moved their way up to the major leagues, including Dallas Braden, Danny Putnam, Kevin Melillo, Kurt Suzuki, Connor Robertson and Travis Buck.

"It was definitely tough [to sit out the year]. I was hard to see everybody move up, but it was also good to see that movement," Drucker said.

"It was a good learning experience. Of course, it wasn't good that it happened, but it helped me to watch a lot of the games on TV and on the Internet to pick up little things and watch guys that I came up with make it."

Drucker kept in-touch with Braden, Suzuki and Buck during their rookie seasons with the A's.

"I sent them text messages and e-mails to joke with them to do better because I had them on my fantasy teams. They definitely deserved the promotions. They worked really hard. Now we are all just waiting for our opportunity," Drucker said.

Throughout his rehabilitation, Drucker kept in close contact with the A's minor league medical coordinator Jeff Collins to let the team know how he was progressing.

"In years past, I felt that usually when Oakland hadn't seen a guy the year prior, they'd send him to Extended Spring Training or take their time with him, especially when he is coming off of injury. When I got my letter telling me that I was coming to camp, I was really excited," Drucker said.

"It was comforting to know that they wanted me to get out there and that they felt like through my communications with Jeff Collins that we stayed on a good pace and that they were happy with where I was at. He felt I was ready for camp."

Since arriving in camp, Drucker and the rest of the A's minor league pitching corps have been working with the A's new minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. Patterson joined the A's from the New York Yankees organization. He is replacing Ron Romanick, who is the A's new major league bullpen coach. Drucker has liked what he has seen from Patterson thus far in camp.

"Patterson is a really great guy like Romanick. Patterson is really open to new ideas. During these three days, he has had his door open and has encouraged us to come to him with any questions or to tell him what we like or don't like," Drucker said.

In addition to getting to know a new pitching coordinator, Drucker is working to put names to the myriad new faces in the A's organization. Thanks to the draft and numerous trades and minor-league free agent signings, the A's have added a large number of new players since Drucker was last in uniform in 2006.

"A lot of my guys are up in the majors or are in other systems, so there are a lot of new faces. When I got to camp, I looked around and I knew maybe 10 guys in the room. I am rooming with [fellow A's pitching prospect] Mike Madsen and so I am hoping to pick his brain to see who's who in the organization," Drucker said.

With the A's moving towards a youth movement at the major-league level, there is optimism among the players in minor league camp that there will be opportunities for them with the A's in the near future, according to Drucker.

"It just makes a player's eyes more wide-open and makes us work harder to see that it is really realistic to make the big leagues and that we aren't just stuck in a system where they are only going to go with veteran players," Drucker said.

"I am really glad to be back in a uniform and back on the field because I feel like my whole draft class did so well last year and with the whole A's organization moving so many players up, it really opened my eyes about this career and how it could be a real possibility.

"When a player is good enough to play at the higher level, the A's aren't going to just go with the bigger contract. They are going to go to the farm system. "

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