"I was knocking on the door," he said. "I was on the ultimate fast track. Then I got hurt, and that derailed me pretty quick."
And he got hurt and hurt and hurt again. Carignan, 25, came to the Athletics as a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of North Carolina. With a big mid-90s fastball and a decent slider, he blew through the low minors and recorded 28 saves in 2008, spending most of the year with Double-A Midland, where he recorded a 2.22 ERA.
Then everything came apart. He started feeling pain in his forearm, and he made just two appearances in 2009. The next year he had surgery to remove bone spurs and two other loose bodies from his elbow. He went to extended spring and pulled an oblique muscle.
He managed 30 appearances for high Class A Stockton in 2010, but it was not the old Carignan—not with 34 walks and a 6.27 ERA. He even went to the A's complex in the Dominican to get more work, living in a dorm with the teenagers.
So the burly 5-foot-11 righthander reported to spring training in 2011 with hopes to revive his career. Again came the injuries. First he sustained a deep bone bruise in his ankle, then he repeated the oblique pull. The one-time fast-tracker suddenly was getting passed in the slow lane.
"It was definitely hard," Carignan said. "It's frustrating, especially when you work for a while and kind of get one part of your body healthy, then another part breaks down. You feel like it's a never-ending cycle. Being down there in Arizona with all the young guys is not easy, either. I saw a lot of Arizona."
Finally, Carignan began his comeback at midseason. He spent most of June at Stockton, not allowing an earned run in nine appearances. He then bounced from Midland to Triple-A Sacramento, where he had a 2.16 ERA in 13 appearances in August. That led to finishing the season in Oakland, followed by a stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Carignan's fastball hits 95 mph, and he says his slider and changeup have both improved. Now, if he stays healthy, he has a shot at a big league job.
• Todd Steverson moved up to the position of roving hitting coach, switching roles with Greg Sparks, who takes over as hitting coach at Sacramento.
• The A's retained their entire minor league staffs, but shuffled a few pitching coaches. John Wasdin moved to low Class A Burlington and Ariel Prieto moved to short-season Vermont. Jimmy Escalante took over in the Rookie-level Arizona League.