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Cortes working way back from injury

August 20, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

It has been over a year since David Cortes injured his arm and he's just beginning to regain the form that made him a major league pitcher.

Cortes, an El Centro resident and former Central Union High School Spartan, is trying to work his way back from "Tommy John surgery" by pitching for the Macon Braves in the Class A South Atlantic League. It's a far cry from Atlanta, where he had the proverbial cup of coffee with the Braves in 1999. But it's a stop he needs to make on his way back to the big leagues.

"My arm is getting stronger," he said. "It's getting better. It's about 90 percent. I have good days and bad days. One day it feels great and the next day like (crap)."

Cortes, 28, only recently joined the Macon squad. He began the year with Myrtle Beach and pitched for most of the year for Greenville, which is Atlanta's AA affiliate. He threw 14.2 innings for Greenville, compiling an 0-2 record and a 9.21 ERA. He struck out nine and walked 11 in 12 games. He agreed to move to Macon to pitch more.


"I needed to pitch a little more," he said. "They asked if I wanted to come here and pitch every other day and I said yes.

"I would have liked to have gone 40-50 innings. That's why I have to go to winter ball, to get the innings that I didn't get here."

Cortes has found his sixth year in professional baseball has been his toughest. He injured his arm while pitching for Hermosillo while playing in Mexicali in a Mexican League game.

"One day I was pitching and the next day it was hard to play catch," he said. "I thought it was something small, but it wasn't and everything went down from there."

He did not learn the extent of his injury until he went to spring training in 2000. It was then that he went under the knife. Through months of hard work he has made his way back to the mound.

"The surgery didn't go as good as I expected it to," he said. "I don't think this year will be the year I can say I'll be back.

"It's hard to come back from this thing, to try to be 100 percent every day."

Cortes says the work to come back from the surgery is tough and at times can be frustrating.

"My goal was to be able to pitch (this year)," he added. "Things didn't go the way I wanted them to. I've lost two years of my career, because this year doesn't count. I'm not trying to get back to the big leagues. I'm just trying to get my arm healthy."

In fact, his only goal for this season is to be able to get his arm healthy.

"I just want to get 100 percent," he said. "Once you get 100 percent, then you're mentally ready to pitch anywhere. I've got to get 100 percent, then get a job in the big leagues."

One thing that makes this easier for Cortes is being able to watch as fellow Imperial Valley-ite Rudy Seanez (Brawley Union High) comes back so well from the same surgery with the San Diego Padres.

"Seeing Rudy pitching (is great)," he said. "He came back in nine months and (John) Smoltz came back. It makes me feel better seeing guys pitch after surgery."

Cortes is unsure whether he will return to the Atlanta organization following this season. He would love to return to the Braves, but will take a shot elsewhere if need be.

"I'd love to go back with the Braves," he said. "If it doesn't happen then I'll go wherever I can pitch."

With his goal of regaining his arm strength firmly planted, Cortes will soldier on through this season and, as the old baseball adage goes, wait till next year.

"I appreciate being able to pitch," he said. "I'll like it more when I'm 100 percent. Right now it's hard. I'm not mad or happy. I still wish it had never happened, but that's a part of baseball. Surgery is a part of the game and you have to live with it and learn to get over it."

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