Often across the sport of baseball at all levels, promising pitchers have their season or careers ended cut short due to ligament damage in pitching elbows. Many pin this as a direct result of the game’s changing nature toward favoring pitchers throwing harder than ever.
Texas reliever Peter Fairbanks knows that all too well. He’s undergone “Tommy John” ligament repair surgery twice.
Fairbanks first underwent the procedure as a junior two-sport star at Webster Groves High School. He recovered extremely well, and earned a baseball scholarship at Missouri, where he excelled in three seasons and was drafted by the Rangers in the ninth round of the 2015 draft.
That wouldn’t be the first time Fairbanks came back better than before from an injury.
In 2017, Fairbanks went under the knife once more for the same procedure. He missed the entire 2018 season recovering.
In February, he rehabbed at Texas’ Spring Training facility in Arizona. There, his career took another turn when the team deiced to transition to Fairbanks to a starting pitcher. It’s a tough, lengthy adjustment, for most.
So who could blame him if he said it was a surprise that he’d break onto the Major League roster come early June?
“It’s still been a whirlwind,” Fairbanks said. “But I’ve got no complaints so far.”
Fairbanks was called up to Texas on June 8th after short stints between Single-A, Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Nashville this season. He made his debut the day after, striking out three batters in two scoreless innings against Oakland with his family in attendance.
His comeback story doesn’t stop simply with his ascension to the bigs, however. Interestingly, where his fastball’s topped out in the low 90s prior to his second procedure, he came back averaging 96.7 MPH according to Statcast, even sometimes reaching triple-digits.
“My year-plus in rehab were what set me up to be here where I am now,” Fairbanks said.
He watched pitching videos online and work with the Rangers training staff to completely re-work his delivery. It’s yielded results so far, to the tune of a 2.40 ERA and 48 strikeouts across 26 games at all levels.
He’s proven to be a popular player with fans and teammates in his short stint with Texas. On his first road trip, the team played the Red Sox in Boston at the same time that Peter’s beloved St. Louis Blues were playing at the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Missing out on seeing the game in person may be the only regret of his professional career.
“I did not get a ticket to the game in Boston when we were there,” Fairbanks said. “I should’ve. But most the guys watched it with me. It was pretty cool to see.”
“It was better to see a Boston team not win a third championship in a calendar year, honestly,” he quipped.
No matter how long he sticks around of the Rangers roster, Fairbanks says he will return to Mizzou to finish his Mechanical Engineering degree with an Aerospace emphasis when his career ends.
Difficult as that may sound to many, it will probably be a piece of cake after two major injury recoveries.
“I am definitely going back and finishing,” Fairbanks affirmed.
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