Paul Bush spent the first seven years of his career in the Atlanta Braves organization, topping out at Triple-A while posting solid numbers at every stop he made along the way (22-22, 3.24 in 175 games).
For one reason or another, he got spit out of organizational ball and ended up contemplating retirement in the off-season after a tough recovery from an elbow injury.
“I’d had Tommy John (surgery) in ’07, actually Monday (was) the two-year anniversary of it,” Bush said.
“The whole rest of the season in ’08, my elbow hurt every day and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come back from it. There was a kid in my hometown who wanted me to play catch with him and see if I thought he had what it took to make it in pro ball, and once I started playing catch with him, my arm felt a lot better.”
It was then when Bush gave legitimate thought to returning for the 2009 season.
“As I started to up the volume, I came back stronger and it wasn’t hurting me,” he said.
“I decided to give it another try because I felt like I could still play.”
After deciding to come back, he signed with the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, where he again posted solid numbers (0-0, 1.62 in nine games) before being picked up by the Yankees.
“I had a blast over there,” said Bush of playing in Somerset.
“Having Sparky Lyle as manager and Brett Jodie as pitching coach, those guys love baseball and it really shows in the kind of team they put together. Everybody was out there playing hard, and it was a lot of fun.”
Assigned to Triple-A Scranton after signing with the Yankees towards the end of May, he struggled in two of his first three outings with the team, his ERA ballooning to nearly ten. While he was able to recover and cut his ERA nearly in half, he was only being used about once a week.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for him to get sent down a level.
“Compared to where I started the season at, I don’t really think I can complain with where I’m at now,” said Bush of being shipped to Double-A.
“At least I’m getting an opportunity to pitch, though. That’s the important thing.”
And pitch he did.
With a need for a starter at Double-A Trenton, Bush was sent down and made his Thunder debut on the road in New Hampshire on Monday, working three and a third hitless innings as the team carried a collective no-hitter deep into the game.
Primarily used as a reliever throughout his career, the crafty 29-year-old righty uses an arsenal of a fastball, changeup, curveball and slider, using the latter as his out pitch.
“I just try to throw strikes and get ahead of guys,” Bush says.
Asked which role he’d prefer to do that in, the Florida native just seemed happy to be getting a chance anywhere in affiliated baseball.
“I’ll do either one,” he said.
“As long as I get a chance to throw, I really don’t care whether it’s relief or starting.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com