Ramon Ortiz, 40, spent all of 2012 in the minors working toward one more shot at the big leagues. He got it this year with Toronto, but he's been ineffective. Last night, after delivering a pitch, he felt his elbow go. Then, tears.
Ortiz came up in 1999 with the Angels, but since 2005 has bounced around, taking work wherever he could find it. He spent 2008 in Japan and 2009 with the Giants' AAA affiliate. 2010 saw 16 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Dodgers. 2011 brought another brief stint with the Cubs. He was cut from Giants spring training in 2012, and spent the year in the Yankees system, not quite ready to retire.
He signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays over the winter, and had made three separate trips up and down from AAA Buffalo. In his 2013 major league action, mostly as a spot starter, he'd gone 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA. All of which is to say: he's running out of chances.
Last night, in the third inning of what would be an 11-inning Blue Jays win, Ortiz injured his elbow while throwing a pitch to Chase Headley. His reaction is heartbreaking:
"It doesn't look good," manager John Gibbons said. Ortiz has been placed on the 15-day DL, and will have an MRI exam within the next few days.
"I saw him after it happened, in the training room," Gibbons said. "He has been at this game a long, long time. He has been a pretty healthy guy and this game takes its toll on you. He's a winner, he's a champ. I feel for him."
"What a somber game for us with Ramon and what happened to him," infielder Mark DeRosa said. "Watching him reflect on his career, hopefully he didn't throw his last pitch."
We hope it's not the end for Ortiz. But the history of pitchers who have injured themselves merely throwing a pitch doesn't project well for a speedy recovery. And at Ortiz's age, a lengthy rehab might as well be a sign to call it a career. Very few athletes get to go out on their own terms, but even fewer face the end so suddenly and publicly.