In April 2011, Nick Schmidt was set to undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder. There was fraying in his left labrum ... and doubt in his mind. He thought his career was over.
That's what makes Sunday's game so sweet.
The Rockies farmhand took a no-hitter into the seventh and pitched a season-high eight innings in the Double-A Tulsa Drillers' 4-2 victory over the visiting Arkansas Travelers.
"I'm just thankful because it's been a long road. My arm finally feels like it did before," he said, offering some unintended humor. "I got elbow surgery."
Yes, Schmidt (2-1) is also a Tommy John survivor. More on that in a bit. First, here's how the 26-year-old left-hander's surviving: He retired 18 of the first 19 Travelers, pitching around his own throwing error in the third inning.
"Early on, it was my fastball and changeup keeping them off-balance," he said. "They were getting out front. ... When you have a good defense, throw strikes and let them makes outs."
Schmidt had sat down 12 straight when Renny Osuna broke up his no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the seventh.
"Fastball in and he got a good swing on it," Schmidt said.
"It was pretty cool to have that opportunity [at history]. You try not think about it, but it's on your mind. I was just trying to [regain] my focus."
What did he tell himself on the mound after Osuna's buzz-kill?
"'Well, all right, now relax,'" Schmidt recalled. "It wasn't quite pressure relief, but I could take my mind off it."
Osuna took third on Roberto Lopez's single and scored on Casey Hearther's base hit before the starter righted himself to avoid further damage.
His finish mirroring his start, Schmidt pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.
"It's a confidence-booster to come out of that [seventh] inning to go back out there," he said.
Schmidt fanned five while allowing three hits. He threw 66 of 99 pitches for strikes. One other factor in his success? Keeping Travelers leadoff man Jean Segura off the bases.
Segura, who swiped four bags in Arkansas' 6-5 loss on Saturday, went 0-for-3 against Schmidt. The Angels' No. 1 prospect singled and scored in the ninth against closer Josh Sullivan, who picked up his seventh save.
"He's a great hitter," Schmidt said of Segura. "A guy like that, you have to keep off the bases. He's an inning-changer."
Schmidt pitched eight innings once before in his six-year career. With Lake Elsinore, the Padres' Class A Advanced affiliate, last Aug. 3, he gave up two hits over eight scoreless frames in a no-decision against Bakersfield.
San Diego traded him to Colorado last December for Major League reliever Huston Street.
Schmidt's path through pro ball -- he was the Padres' first-round Draft pick in 2007 -- has been a winding one. He missed all of 2008 after going under the knife for the first time, then pitched in 24 games in both 2009 and 2010.
Back at Lake Elsinore for a third straight season in 2011, he made 10 fewer appearances due to a second major surgery on his pitching arm, performed days after Spring Training concluded.
"I thought I was going to retire," Schmidt admitted. "It turned out to be a one of the blessings of my life. I went from [possibly] retiring to having another opportunity. It's made me a stronger person."
And perhaps, pitcher. Through seven starts this season, his first at the Double-A level, he has struck out 29 batters while walking five over 33 innings.
Kiel Roling's second-inning solo blast off Eddie McKiernan got the Drillers going. Nolan Arenado, the Rockies' top prospect, doubled home a run in the fifth.
"That really got us going," Schmidt said of Roling's blast, adding, "these guys can really swing the bat."
Arenado went 2-for-4, raising his average to .291. He also made a diving stop at third base to record the first out of Schmidt's final inning.
The Drillers (24-12) improved to a Texas League-best 15-3 at home.
McKiernan (3-1) was charged with three runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 frames.