Dreifort's Dodger Career Ends With Latest Surgery

In 1993 the Dodgers had the second pick in the June amateur draft and after Seattle selected shortstop Alex Johnson, they chose a hard-throwing righthander from Wichita State who had won the Golden Spikes Award as the top player in the nation.

In addition to an 11-1, 2.48 record, Darren Dreifort batted .327 with 22 homers and 66 runs batted in. His career mark was 26-5 with 17 saves and a 2.24 ERA, leading the Shockers to three consecutive College World Series appearances in Omaha.

February 3 it was announced that Dreifort was scheduled to have shoulder surgery Feb. 15, his fourth operation of the offseason. Dreifort had on his left knee Jan. 6. He had hip surgery in September, and an operation on his right knee in October.

"He recovered well from each of the first two surgeries, but it's hard to predict exactly how long it's going to take -- especially with the upcoming surgery," general manager Paul DePodesta said at the signing of Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura. "So I think he still has a long road in front of him."

DePodesta was probably being kind. The kid that showed up at the Arizona Instructional League in 1993 has, in all probability, thrown his last pitch professionally, at least for the Dodgers.

But before you send flowers, remember this is a tough young man.

Dreifort, who turns 33 on May 3, has worked only 205.2 innings over the last two seasons because of injuries. He completely missed the 1995 and 2002 seasons after elbow ligament replacement operations.

A lesser man would have cashed in his chips a long time ago, taking the rest of his five-year, $55 million contract and spend the rest of his life on the golf course or on the beach.

But after each debilitating operation, he has painfully fought back to earn either a starting slot or a place in the bullpen only to break down again.

You won't find a story about Dreifort's recent setback without the obligatory "He was given the worst contract in Dodger history" paragraph, a theme that the media has been beating him over the head with since he signed the document.

But this is no ordinary man.

His path through the major leagues have been bookmarked with disasters and his resume reads like the star attraction of a Blue Cross-Blue Shield convention.

v He made his debut in the Arizona Instructional League in 1993 only to leave early with tendinitis in his right shoulder.

v In 1994, along with pitcher Chan Ho Park, he became the 17th player since 1965 to make his professional debut in the Major Leagues.

v He missed the entire 1995 season due to reconstructive surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament in his right elbow. During his recovery he earned his undergraduate degree at Wichita State University.

v In 1996 he split the season between Albuquerque and Los Angeles, working 19 innings and compiling a 1-4, 4.94 record with the Dodgers.

v He spent his first full season with the Dodgers and went 5-2, 2.86 in 48 games in 1997. He returned 38 of the first 42 batters he faced and stranded 21 of 27 runners he inherited. holding opposing hitters to a .202 average. He was on the disabled list in May due to tendinitis in his right elbow.

v In 1999 he made the starting rotation for the first time, wining eight games in 26 starts and setting a career-high 168 strikeouts. He won four of his last five starts and posted a 1.41 ERA but was shutdown in September because of tightness in his right forearm.

v His best and only full season came in 2000 when he won a dozen games and had a 4.16 ERA over 32 starts, allowing three runs or less in 22 of the starts. L.A. was 20-12 when he started and he finished his final 13 starts of the year with an 8-2 record and a 3.14 ERA.

v After a perfect 5-0 spring training in 2001, he tore a medial collateral ligament in his right elbow after 16 starts and underwent surgery July 9, ending his season.

v Missed the entire 2002 season after injuring his right knee durning rehab from the 2001 season and undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out loose cartilage.

v Was 4-4, 4.03 over his first 10 starts before having season-ending surgery on his knee June 18. Before going down, he set a major league record by fanning seven Colorado Rockies in the first two innings and a career-high 12 in a 4-3 win. On September 23, he had arthroscopic surgery on a partial tear of the right labrum in his hip.

v Became a full-time reliever in 2004 and pitched a career-high 60 games before suffering a sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament in hi right knee on August 16. February 3 it was announced that Dreifort was scheduled to have shoulder surgery Feb. 15, his fourth operation of the offseason. He had hip surgery in September, and an operation on his right knee in October.

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