(Boise, ID) - When Mitch Levier
slips his newly issued Vancouver Canadians jersey over his head this afternoon, it will be with mixed emotions.
The former Vancouver Canadians outfielder who made his professional debut in 2008, is back in Class-A Short-Season after missing the better part of the '09 season due to a potentially career ending injury.
Levier was a member of the Kane County Cougars (Class-A) last season after receiving his first professional promotion from the Oakland Athletics who valued their 9th round selection from a season earlier.
Hitting .246 with two home runs and 18 RBI over his first 35 games with the Cougars, Levier was brought in to pitch in what ended up being a loss to a Midwest League rival.
Levier walked three, grabbed the loss and finished with an ERA of 13.50 in his only mound appearance of the season, and likely his last professionally.
The next day, Levier was back in the outfield with the Cougars when he was challenged to make a throw directly back into the infield. The result? A 'pop' and season ending 'Tommy John' surgery.
Somw would ask how could the Oakland Athletics bring a valued outfield prospect and allow him to pitch?
In reality, it's not that uncommon for a team to seek out a position player to mop up a lopsided score, especially if the bullpen is already taxed. This particular situation just came with the worst case scenario attached to it.
In the same year, former Vancouver Canadians catcher Julio Rivera pitched twice for the C's and didn't do that poorly remaining healthy despite a forgetable ERA.
We may never know how that decision to put Levier onto the mound came to be, but the end result has Levier back in Vancouver trying to show the A's that his arm has healed and his bat is back as well.
In 2008, Levier hit .241 and just five points better the next summer.
This summer he was hitting .200 for the Arizona A's (rookie) before his assignment to Vancouver late Monday night.
Can Levier recover? The Athletics say he is on his way back or he never would have joined the C's in time for the second half of the season.
But questions remain. Can Levier hit at the professional level? Can the rebuilt elbow hold up? Can Levier blend into a Canadians roster that already has five outfielders and the possibility of another addition in Michael Choice now that the 1st Round selection in this years draft has come to terms.
Levier's number this season in limited action in Arizona suggest the outfielder is ready to go. Despite hitting just .200, Levier has seven hits with four of them being extra base hits (3 doubles and a triple).
The arm? Those answers will come in time, but we can say safely that Levier's days on the mound are over.
Levier joined the Canadians in Boise and should become a daily part of the C's starting nine shortly after receiving his jersey on Wednesday.
Rob Fai is broadcaster for the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Club.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.