A strained elbow is not the type of obstacle that can derail someone like Alex Sanabia
After all, the 23-year-old right-hander has become accustomed to beating the odds. How many other 32nd-round Draft picks even make it to the Major Leagues?
"It was just hard work, being consistent," Sanabia said. "I'm not a guy who has that power. I have to work at it. It hasn't been easy."
Sanabia made his big-league debut in 2010, going 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 15 games (12 starts) in the second half of the Marlins' season. It capped a meteoric rise from being drafted out of Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, Calif., one that took all of four years to complete.
But in 2011, Sanabia was limited by the elbow injury to just 40 2/3 innings in the Minors and 11 innings with the Marlins, putting the first significant road bump in what has otherwise been a smooth career.
"It wasn't that serious, just inflammation around the ligament, but I had to take some time off from throwing," Sanabia said.
Because his injury was not the type that could be easily fixed with a specific rehabilitation plan, Sanabia had to learn quickly how to adapt.
"It was definitely rough, that was the first time I was rehabbing," he said. "You definitely grow and mature, learn how to take care of your body. You realize you have to do a little bit more."
This season, Sanabia seems to be back to his old self. In 14 starts for the New Orleans Zephyrs, he has gone 6-4 with a 3.16 ERA through Saturday in a hitters' league. That included a solid performance in the thin air of Albuquerque on Tuesday, when he allowed just two runs in six innings as the Zephyrs beat the Isotopes, 9-7.
"My concern is never the ballpark or how the ball flies," Sanabia said. "My job is just to go out there and pitch. As long as I throw strikes and keep the ball down, most of the time I'll be fine."
Sanabia has not received a callup so far this season, but he remains on the Marlins' 40-man roster, and in terms of pure stats, he has the best ERA and lowest WHIP on the Zephyrs' staff.
"Compared to last year being injured pretty much the whole year, I'm happy," he said. "Whatever's happening up there, I can't control it. I can just perform down here."
Sanabia and the Zephyrs will continue their series with the visiting Memphis Redbirds through Tuesday.
Smashing start: Iowa center fielder Brett Jackson bashed his third leadoff home run of the season on Saturday. Counting the half-season worth of games he spent with the Cubs last year, Jackson now has nine leadoff homers in his brief Triple-A career. The six he hit last season were already a franchise record and he is now halfway to that total again this year.
Not-so-dandy Danny: Mariners No. 1 prospect Danny Hultzen had a Triple-A debut to forget on Saturday. The left-hander, last year's second overall pick, gave up five runs on five hits and five walks in three innings of Tacoma's 8-4 loss at Colorado Springs. The No. 11 overall prospect in the Minors, Hultzen was 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A Jackson prior to joining the Rainiers.
Future stars: Hultzen's fine Double-A work still made him one of seven PCL players to be named to the rosters of the All-Star Futures Game. Tucson catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was born in Cuba, will suit up for the World Team. The other five players who will join Hultzen on the U.S. Team are Reno right-hander Trevor Bauer, Omaha right-hander Jake Odorizzi and outfielder Wil Myers, and Las Vegas catcher Travis d'Arnaud and outfielder Anthony Gose.