Last May, before he decided against having surgery, Todd called his father. In 1974 Mel Sr. had torn his rotator cuff. It was three months into the season, just one year after he had won 16 games for a Yankees team that went 80-82. At the time there was no Frank Jobe, certainly no David Zeman. Mel Sr.'s career was over; he was 32. And Mel Jr. underwent a pair of rotator cuff surgeries that killed his career in the early 1990s. Hence, Mel Sr. was initially skeptical about Todd's plan for a miracle recovery. He spoke with his son of the risks: His arm could give out at any time, and the rotator cuff could tear all the way through.
"A lot of time Todd will ask my advice," says Mel, "but this time it was more of a discussion. He felt he owed Arizona the effort to pitch last season. I knew the effort would be there, but I had my doubts." In that postseason game against the Mets, Mel watched every pitch, not as a concerned dad but as a proud one. "I made myself enjoy it," he says. "That was a crowning moment for my son. It was a crowning moment for me too."
Yet Todd refuses to crown himself a complete success, the King of Comebacks. There is a harsh reality to the rotator cuff: Once it is torn, surgery or no surgery, it's never the same. "Todd's territory is uncharted," says Lessard, the trainer. "There's no book that'll tell us how the story ends."
Last Friday, when the Diamondbacks opened camp in Tucson, Stottlemyre threw normally and uneventfully. He says he is in the best shape of his life. He says it over and over. A reminder. A reaffirmation. But he knows that any one pitch can—snap!—be his last. "I can do as much training as I want, and there's still a good amount of vulnerability," he says.
He will continue his exercise regimen through the season. "I know what I'm dealing with," he says, "but I've been to the World Series, and I want to get there again—not as a spectator, but on the mound."
Still sitting by his locker, he gently scratches his right arm and says, "I have to believe that will happen."
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