February 25, 2011
His surgically reconstructed elbow felt great during and after a scrimmage against teammates Thursday. Outman hit 92 mph on the radar gun several times. And he hit most of his spots.
Only one thing was amiss. A style point — green stirrups. It had been so long since Outman pitched, the A's clubhouse guy forgot to have them ready.
"That's why I'm wearing these Little League socks," Outman said jokingly. He was reduced to wearing socks any weekend softball warrior could buy over at Sports Authority — a yellow sock with the stirrup pattern dyed on.
Faux socks? Talk about getting hosed. C'mon, A's clubhouse guy, the yellow sanitary socks with the green stirrups have been a staple of Oakland Athletics fashion since the early 1970s. And Outman has taken to it like a real leg man.
Once he joined the majors in 2009, Outman became noted for three things: Pitching well, pitching with a perfect last name for a pitcher, and doing so showing as much leg as possible. Pants rolled up to just below the knees. How you're supposed to.
Oh, yeah: Outman also performed well as a rookie before he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John ligament replacement surgery: In 12 starts, he had a 3.48 ERA and struck out 53 batters with a 1.158 WHIP. Manager Bob Geren said Outman was one of the A's best pitchers before his elbow gave way.
"It's good to get back out there and have some sense of competition on a level I think I'm capable of performing at," Outman said. "My arm felt great."
Back to the socks. The dude was stylin' out there, like the A's of 40 years ago; Though he doesn't have the leg kick, the high socks made Outman resemble Vida Blue. His calves, anyway.
Not many pitchers sport the Babe Ruth look today. Barry Zito(notes) does. Josh Johnson(notes), too. That's how Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) does it. And it's how Outman does it, though his look isn't for aesthetics or to draw attention. It's just comfortable for him and it's what he is used to.
"No, I'm not surprised it hasn't caught on more," Outman said. "I think everyone is comfortable with their long, baggy pants down to the shoes — which is fine. I wear my uniform how I do and everyone else wears theirs how they're comfortable.
"It's just less of a pain for a position player to just throw the pants on every day. I only have to strap on the stirrups every fifth day."
So, despite an old-school look and an usually high uniform number — 88 — Outman is not just another wacky left-hander, or even slightly eccentric like Zito. He's just a guy happy to be back on a ball field again.
"I feel pretty comfortable with my elbow [being] recovered and I'm ready to compete in games," Outman said. "I'm not going to say I wasn't a little nervous, just getting back out there and facing major league hitters again. As far as worrying about my health, I don't have any issue with that."
Nor does he mind that his fastball didn't go as fast as it can go. It was right where he wanted it.
"If I can stay in the low 90s, that's all I can really ask for," Outman said. "Two years [since surgery] will be June, and they say that's when your velocity comes back. Hopefully, by after the All-Star break, I can get back into the middle/upper 90s where I was able to get to.
"Even if I stay 90-93 right now, I can pitch with that and I can get people out with that. I'm happy."
Outman also was happy for Devine, who struggled a little bit with location but pitched without pain.
"We pretty much rehabbed together," Outman said. "We kind of had setbacks at the same time and the same kind of issues here and there. I know he didn't have the command he wanted to, but he said his elbow felt great and that's the biggest thing this early on. If we have to give up some runs early in spring training so we can figure some things out, so be it."
Devine's socks? Not terribly memorable.
"We've all seen what they can do when they're on," Geren said. "... When Outman got it going, he was hitting 95, 97 (mph)."
The A's have one of the deeper pitching staffs in the league, so Outman and Devine aren't guaranteed spots on the major league roster on opening day. Outman understands.
"We both could end up in Triple-A; you never know what's going to happen," Outman said. "The only thing we can really shoot for is having a healthy spring training, and as far as anything the front office can do, make the decisions difficult."
Wherever Outman pitches going forward, he plans on doing it with pant legs held high.