By Roch Kubatko
May 24, 2004
BALTIMORE–Righthander Nick Adenhart, the Williamsport (Md.) High pitcher who had been expected to go in the first round of next month’s draft, will have Tommy John surgery after suffering an injury in his last start.
Adenhart left a May 11 game at South Hagerstown in the first inning because of pain in the elbow. Dr. James Andrews examined him May 17 in Birmingham and recommended the surgery, which will take place in June after Adenhart graduates.
“The only thing wrong with the elbow is this ligament,” said Adenhart’s stepfather, Duane Gigeous. “It’s baffling that it just went because everything else is fine. He’s never had any soreness, he’s never had any problem whatsoever. It’s like lightning striking. Why does it strike one tree and not another? That’s unexplainable. But there’s nobody to blame.”
Adenhart, 17, was serving as the DH for Williamsport in the Maryland Class A playoffs. He homered against Smithsburg May 20 in his first at-bat since the diagnosis, and remained in the lineup May 21 against Boonesboro in the regional final.
Scouts have been trailing Adenhart all season after he went 6-1, 1.20 as a junior. Intrigued by his command of a 95 mph fastball, curve and changeup, they watched him go 5-1, 0.91 and 85 strikeouts in 38 innings this year.
The injury likely will dissuade teams from taking Adenhart early in the draft, and his college commitment might mean he won’t get drafted at all. He has a scholarship to North Carolina and plans to pitch for the Tar Heels after redshirting his first season. He’ll be eligible for the draft again after three years.
“I’ve talked to him every day and he seems like he’s doing fine,” said Dean Albany, an Orioles scout who managed Adenhart on summer and fall league teams. “He went to one of the best doctors there is, and the way guys come back from this surgery . . . He’s going to come out of this just fine. In three years we’ll be talking about the same kid. It’s a small setback.”
Baseball America rated Adenhart as the No. 1 high school player in the country coming into the season, later moving LaGrange (Texas) High pitcher Homer Bailey ahead of him.
“He’s handling this like a champ,” Gigeous said. “He’ll go to North Carolina and play in the ACC for a couple years and get a college education. We don’t view it as a tragedy. And I think when all is said and done, he’ll be a better pitcher.
“For us and for Nick, there are a lot of silver linings in this cloud. The biggest message being sent is he shot for the stars, gave himself some options and landed on the moon. Everybody in the world would be celebrating him playing at North Carolina if it hadn’t been for the other thing. And this is a character builder. It’s a dream delayed, not denied.
“We firmly believe he’ll wear a major league uniform. The only difference is he’ll have a college education.”
Adenhart is insured by Lloyds of London “for a substantial amount,” Gigeous said, but only for an injury that prevents him from ever playing again.
Roch Kubatko is Baseball America’s Orioles correspondent and covers baseball for the Baltimore Sun.