After long rehab, thoughts of giving up, Twins’ Josh Staumont returns to majors

Thoughts of giving up plagued him.

After working to find a diagnosis for what was going on in his upper body, a process that took between 12-18 months, Twins pitcher Josh Staumont underwent thoracic outlet surgery. Then he underwent a lengthy rehab process from a procedure that major leaguers have had mixed results coming back from.

So when he finally got back on the mound in a big league game on May 9, one of the things that stood out to him was just how many times he wanted to give up — and the fact that he didn’t.

“Giving up is always going to be the easy option, and you’re going to deal with the consequences of that,” he said. “To be in the position to where you finally kind of take that next step and you’re able to throw here and almost put that behind you fully, it’s unmatched. It really is. It’s one of my most proud moments of my career.”

Once one of the most dominant relievers in the game, Staumont, now 30, started dealing in 2022 with symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which nerves or blood vessels are compressed, missing time with what was called a neck strain back then.

He finished that season with a 6.45 earned-run average. Last year, he had a 5.40 ERA before he finally shut things down in June. He had TOS surgery to remove a rib and scalene muscles the next month.

“Being in this position after the last two years, just struggling with not knowing what’s going on, deciding if we’re doing surgery, struggling to compete, just being able to go out and feel good and get the results you want and not really worry about a lot of the things I was worried about because it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how to get a hitter out.’ It was ‘I couldn’t feel my arm,’ ” Staumont said. “It’s the same game but it’s got different meaning, so it was awesome.”

As thoughts of shutting it down crept into his mind, Staumont thought of his younger self — the one who would have been just so ecstatic to be wearing a uniform of a major league team — and even more than that, he thought of his future self.

It was something he used as his guiding light.

“When I’m 85, 90, I’ve got little time left, I hope I look back at myself at 28, 30 and I’m happy with the way I went about my busines. Because you’re always going to want to go back to that time,” Staumont said. “You do want to give up, but your future self would look back at you and be pretty grateful for the situation that you found yourself in.”

After going through the rehab process, his return to the majors was delayed even further after he strained his calf near the end of spring training. Once his leg healed, the Twins optioned him to Triple-A, where he worked in eight games before getting the call.

He’s still working his way back, to an extent. His stuff isn’t where he wants it to be yet, he’s not throwing as hard as he used to, and there’s still maintenance to do in the shoulder area. But his first four games back have seen him throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

And it’s clear just how significant that return has been to him.

“It’s nice to see a guy work hard and get back,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You just never know in this game, so working your way back from something, it becomes meaningful.”

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