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There were lots of milestones on the road back to the mound: the first time he played catch after the injury (June 22); the day after that, when his arm wasn't sore; the first game he started, against the Mexican all-stars (Aug. 4); the two other rehab starts (Aug. 9 and 14); the day he walked into the Arizona clubhouse as a member of the team once again (Aug. 19).
On Aug. 20 Stottlemyre made his return start for the Diamondbacks, against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. He did not pitch well. His fastball was up, his curveball flat. In 4? innings he allowed seven hits and five runs, including two homers by Brian Giles. But he will always remember the looks on his teammates' faces when he took the mound: a combination of joy and disbelief. "You do not return from a torn rotator cuff," says outfielder Luis Gonzalez. "You just don't—not like Stott did."
After that Stottlemyre went 2-1 in seven starts, and on Oct. 6 he pitched 6? innings of a 7-1 Diamondbacks win over the New York Mets in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series. He allowed one run and four hits, with a fastball that reached 94 mph ("The fastest I've ever thrown," he says) and a nasty snake of a slider, and picked up the win.
"Stott doesn't always show his emotions, but that game meant everything to him," says Darren Holmes, the Diamondbacks reliever and Stottlemyre's closest friend on the club. "He carries a lot of weight around—his desire to win, his intensity—but he always finds a way to overcome."
Perhaps the first time Todd Stottlemyre was universally recognized as a bit of a basket case was in 1993, when—in the midst of helping the Toronto Blue Jays win their second World Series, against the Philadelphia Phillies—he was insulted by Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, who publicly said that he'd enjoy hitting off the then-struggling righthander. After the Series was over, courtesy of Joe Carter's dramatic Game 6 homer, Stottlemyre addressed a packed SkyDome. Rendell, he said, "can kiss my ass."
This is Stottlemyre: charitable (he once gave $1 million to the United Way), good-hearted ("An amazing father to our daughter," says Sheri) but as cute and cuddly as a piranha. Early last season, in a Diamondbacks-Giants game, San Francisco's Charlie Hayes reached first base by grounding into a fielder's choice and then muttered some self-punishing obscenities. Stottlemyre, standing on the mound, thought Hayes was spewing his way.
Stottlemyre: "F—- you."
Hayes: "F—- me?"
Stottlemyre: "Yeah, f—- you."
Hayes: "O.K. I'll knock you out."