Scott Elarton, you go boy!
I took a flier on Scott Elarton in my Scoresheet league this year, mainly because it's always good to have innings guys, but because I thought he'd be a decent risk. I threw him out on the second day of the draft early, and people ran from him like the plague, and I got him for the league minimum. I ended up signing him for two years.
Elarton was pencilled in as a 5th starter for Cleveland going into spring training, and appears to have secured his spot in the rotation between the injury to C.C. Sabathia and a great spring, going 3-1 in five spring starts with a 2.70 ERA.
A former top prospect for Houston, Elarton pitched well in a relief role for the Astros, with the occasional spot start until making the rotation for good in 2000, at the age of 24. His 2000 season saw a drop off in his numbers, but the powerful Astros offense defended him, allowing him to pile up 17 wins, albeit with a 4.81 ERA. Elarton's poor ERA was the lowest in the rotation, however.
Elarton's dropoff in strikeouts foreshadowed potential problems, and Houston dealt him to Colorado for Pedro Astacio, himself having a weak season. Both would end up having shoulder problems, and Astacio only pitched four games for Houston the remainder of the season, before leaving as a free agent.
Elarton, already having problems keeping the ball in the park at Enron, ended up in a worse situation in Coors Field. Elarton pitched four games himself for Colorado after the deal from Houston, got shut down, and then missed the entire 2002 season with a torn labrum. Torn labrum's are bad news - unlike other pitching injuries (including the vaunted Tommy John surgery - ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction - where 85% of pitchers are expected to make a full comeback) torn labrums are pretty much the nail in the coffin. To quote Buhner.com favorite Will Carroll, "if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed."
The list of once promising pitchers who've had torn labrums reads like a "whatever happened to?" reunion: Mike Harkey, Robert Person, Jim Parque, Mike Sirotka, Ryan Anderson. Hell, two pitchers who are currently in the league other than Elarton who have come back from labrum surgery, Gil Meche and Rocky Biddle, didn't exactly light up the majors last year, with Meche posting a 5.01 ERA and Biddle's ERA a sterling 6.92.
All isn't lost, though. Meche's 2004 problems may have had more to do with mechanics than his shoulder - after being sent down to AAA and later recalled, Meche had a 3.95 ERA in 13 starts, to go along with a 6-2 record. While his strikeouts aren't impressive, that's still quality pitching. Elarton, after getting hammered in Colorado and finally getting released by the Rockies, signed on with Cleveland in 2004. In Cleveland (where Jacobs Field is a bit more forgiving to a pitcher who gives up the long ball than Coors Field), Elarton logged a 4.53 ERA in 21 starts, considered to be along the league average, and managed a 4.12 ERA after the All-Star Break.
Meche and Elarton make for good stories in 2005 - Meche having his labrum surgery in 2001, Elarton having his in 2002. While both make for good stories, I only care about Elarton - I mean, he's on my team. What did you expect?