Ainsworth Ready To Retire? Hardly!

VERO BEACH, Fla.- Kurt Ainsworth refers to himself as "the old man among all these kids" Yeah, he's positively geriatric at age 27. Probably down here looking for an assisted living facility.

Please note that he was laughing when he made the remark, uttered because his locker is located next to some rookies. And maybe because there are days when he feels a bit decrepit.

Here's a pitcher that had Tommy John surgery while in college at LSU, then came on to achieve such success there that he was the Giants' first-round draft pick in 1999.
He went on to being ranked as the second-best prospect ion the San Francisco organization by Baseball America. He not only made the U.S. Olympic team in 2000, he won both of his starts for that gold medal aggregation coached by Tommy Lasorda. Tommy thought so much of him that when Kurt got married, he made sure to attend the wedding.

He was a can't miss lefty who had been assured that he was going to be part of the Giants rotation. Instead, matters took a turn in 2003 when he was traded to the Orioles because the Giants wanted Sidney Ponson and Kurt was the big part of the price they had to pay. "That was a shock," he recalls. "Still, the Orioles told me I 'd start for them."

Then his shoulder started aching. "It was a tough go. I had that spot in the rotation so I tried to pitch through the pain. I went out there three times but I couldn't go on." So, it was off to the doctor with the diagnosis a bone defect. The cure included having a hole drilled in it, an operation that required some time to get over.

Rehab had, "Ups and downs. Of course I was depressed. Here, I'd been rated so high and now I couldn't throw effectively." A story even appeared that he was retiring.

"I know how that got started. Someone asked me if I ever considered quitting and I answered, "Sure, if I can't pitch the way I should." and it came out that I was done. At no time did I ever considered quitting. I believe I'll get back to where I was and only if I can't do it anymore would I give it up. But I think I can do it."

What he could do was throw his fast ball, which tops around 94 and generally sits at 91, to spots most effectively. He likes to work both sides of the plate with that and also throws a sinker, a changeup, curve and slider. But while working to get back to the premier status he once enjoyed, he became a free agent.

"I was weighing options. I didn't want to go back to the American League. I don't like the way they play the game there. I wanted to pitch for a West Coast team (even though he's from Baton Rouge) and I wanted a warm climate. Ned Colletti, whom I knew from the Giants, contacted me made made me feel that I'd be valued with the Dodgers."

The plan is for him to go to Las Vegas, get innings to sharpen his skills, then, if he's right, bring him up when there's an opening. "That fit in with my plans."

Thus he's here so how close to 100 percent does he feel? "I hope to be ready now," is the answer. "Of course I have to get back on the mound in a game before I can tell for sure." Naturally, he's also renewed his acquaintance with Tommy. "We shared some laughs," he says.

"I'm just confident I'll make it through this whether with the Dodgers or Las Vegas doesn't matter if I get to pitch to show that."

So, he's anything but picking out a burial plot for his career just yet. And if he gets back to resemble anything like the pitcher he once was, he' ll battle those kids for a roster spot no matter how promising they may be. For he thinks his promise still can be kept as well.