Three elbow surgeries later, Fox still pitching
“He said, ‘Man, your arm looks good, you can still pitch,”’ Fox said.
That conversation started his comeback after two years out of the major leagues.
Fox, whose career had been plagued by a series of elbow injuries and operations, said he told the player, “No, my days are over.” But driving home that night he had a revelation.
“Why not? Why not go after it? What do you have to lose? Because I didn’t want to look back,” Fox said. “I’m 38 and I didn’t want to look back at 45 and go, ‘Why didn’t I try it one more time if I had that feeling?”’
Fox’s wife went along with her husband’s sudden decision after he told her, “You’re either going to leave me, think I’m crazy or love what I’m going to tell you, but I’m going to go for it again.”
And so he did, with the Chicago Cubs.
Fox has twice undergone Tommy John surgery, and after his second elbow ligament replacement operation, he fractured his pitching elbow. That meant a third surgery that forced him to sit out the 2000 season.
He returned and had a strong season with the Brewers in 2001 but was back on the disabled list the following season with a strained elbow and sore rotator cuff. He split time with Boston and Florida in 2003, pitching nine postseason games with the Marlins and helping them beat the Cubs in the NL championship series before they won the World Series.
A sore elbow slowed him in 2004, his final season with Marlins, and again in 2005, his first with the Cubs. And after sitting out the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Fox decided to try his comeback. He had three relief appearance for Chicago last season before a nerve problem in his elbow sent him to the sidelines yet again.
Now here he is, trying to pitch his way back into the majors. One last time.
“I’ve been rehabbing and have not had any setbacks, started taking a new nerve pill and it’s really seemed to respond well,” Fox said, adding there is nothing structurally wrong with his elbow.
And Fox, who has pitched in 217 major league games with a 3.60 ERA, has a bigger goal than staying healthy.
“My expectations are I want to make this team,” he said. “I’m not here just to, ‘OK, well I did it again.’ That’s what I’m shooting for. I think it’s realistic, I really do.”
General manager Jim Hendry was impressed with the way Fox pitched against the Cubs in the playoffs and decided to give him a shot last year and again this season when he signed a minor league deal and was invited to spring training as a non-roster player.
“When he’s healthy, he’s good enough to pitch for anybody,” Hendry said. “I applaud him for wanting to give it another shot. ... He’s gone out there for many years with that thing hanging by a thread. And he’s never been anything but honest with me, so he says he thinks he might have a shot, we give it to him. I never count him out.”
Fox said he’s feeling 100 percent healthy with no ill effects so far on his elbow this spring. Just being in the clubhouse and on the field again has made the comeback worth it.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said. “A lot of guys might just sit back and say, ‘If I’d stayed healthy, this and that would have happened.’ It wasn’t meant to be. For me to sit and complain or poor pitiful me—no. I look at it as, why not me? Let me prove to you I can do this again.”