Cherry Recovering from Surgery

Rocky Cherry threw his last pitch of the 2006 season on July 21 in a game against Memphis at Iowa's Principal Park in Des Moines. According to Cherry, it wasn't just any pitch; this was one he'd remember.

The 27-year-old reliever was an All-Star at Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A Iowa in mid-July after going 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 48 2/3 innings.

While at West Tenn, Jaxx manager Pat Listach and pitching coach Mike Anderson began to report that Cherry's fastball was topping out in the mid to upper 90s.

In only his second Iowa appearance, Cherry faced three batters and left with an injury to his middle finger – the result of a bone spur that would soon require surgery.

"I threw a fastball and at the extension point of it, I felt a pop. It was excruciating," Cherry said.

The injury described by Cherry is vaguely familiar in reference to the one he detailed last season. The right-hander threw just eight pitches in his third start of the year at Double-A in 2005 and would undergo Tommy John Surgery not long after.

With his elbow healthy this season, Cherry eventually fell victim to a separate injury. He first tried to weather pain in his finger, but found it too unbearable.

"I must have had a little adrenaline rush pitching," he said. "After it happened, I threw a breaking ball and one more pitch to get out of the inning. I told our trainer that I thought something was wrong. I tried to go back out there, but the first pitch I threw, I felt it immediately."

Days later, Cherry flew to Chicago for X-rays and was told he needed surgery. He's currently wearing a splint on the finger, which he was told he must carry for eight weeks after the operation took place.

The injury couldn't have come at a worse time, as Cherry says news had begun to spread that the Cubs were close to giving him a call up to Chicago days earlier.

"That was the word around town and through my agent," Cherry admitted. "You don't know that and can't say it's going to happen until it happens, but I'm pretty confident that with the way I was throwing, my time was going to come if I'd stayed healthy. We'll see what happens next year."

Next year will be Cherry's sixth professional season since being drafted from the University of Oklahoma in 2002. He could become a hot commodity among teams should the Cubs leave him off the 40-man roster by the time the annual Rule Five Draft is held this December.

Although the injury to his finger required only minor surgery, Cherry knows it's still something that will require him to prove he's healthy. To do that, he has plans for Winter Ball in either Puerto Rico or Venezuela this off-season.

"As of now, I'm planning on playing to show that I'm healthy and that I'm fine," Cherry said from his home in Dallas, adding, "and also to show that I want a shot in big league Spring Training next year."

Cherry wasn't in Triple-A for an extended amount of time, but had already picked up on a few things early. For one, he realized just how close he was to "The Show."

"Looking back, I would never have thought I'd come close to the year I had," said Cherry, who was near the top of the Southern League in ERA among relievers throughout the first half. "I was just worried about getting healthy and getting back to where I was. I busted my butt and it allowed me to come back stronger. I had confidence and the results showed in the numbers I put up."

While Cherry spent all of 2006 in the bullpen, he said he hasn't ruled out a return to starting one day. (He had spent most of his four years previously in that role entering this season.) For now, though, he's only focused on rehabbing the finger in Arizona, where he'll return soon.

"This was by far the best year I've put together I think, and I showed them I got it," Cherry said. "Hopefully it stays in their mind and I'll get a shot one day. My attitude is that I've got what it takes; now I just have to go do it."

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