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“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Heading into spring training in 2002, Chad Durbin felt confident about his upcoming season. Two seasons prior, he’d split time between MLB and AAA, with an ERA north of 8.00 during his time with the big club.
However, in the ensuing 2001 season, the former 3rd round pick from Woodlawn HS (LA) had found his footing in the majors. He spent a majority of the season with Kansas City, cutting his ERA to 4.93 over 179 innings as a 23-year-old. Durbin was ready for the next step, becoming a workhorse in the Royals’ rotation for years to come.
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Things didn’t quite go according to plan. An elbow injury limited him to just 12 innings and eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery. As a result, the Royals non-tendered Durbin that offseason, leaving him to navigate free agency along with his injury rehab. Not exactly the year cementing himself in the big leagues that he’d planned on.
Three years later, Durbin was still looking for that chance to become a staple for an MLB club, something that had seemed unfathomable after he flew through the minors and debuted with Kansas City just three years after being drafted.
He’d spent the past three years splitting time between MLB and AAA, bouncing between three organizations while trying to pitch with stuff that didn’t fully come back following his surgery. Frustration set in while Durbin was in AAA New Orleans (then a Nationals affiliate).
“I thought I was good enough, I just thought no one was going to give me a shot anymore,” Durbin said about his time in New Orleans. “I complained every day.”
That “woe-is-me” attitude could’ve been the end of his career, causing him to wrap things up and go try something other than baseball. Fortunately for Durbin and his future, during a round of complaining, someone finally had enough of his whining: his then-fiancée (now wife).
Durbin recalled, “[She] said, ‘Listen, are you gonna complain for the rest of your life like this, or are you gonna do something about it?’”
In the moment, her comment made him mad, but the next morning he re-dedicated himself to baseball. He began getting to the field early, working as hard as he possibly could, and seeking out every bit of good advice and data he could find in order to get back to the bigs and stay there.
An attitude adjustment wasn’t the end-all, be-all for Durbin, but it was enough to salvage his 2005 season and get some momentum going his way as he moved on to the Tigers organization. In September of 2006, he made it back to the big leagues for good.
Two years later, he was pitching in the World Series.
In Part 2 of our conversation with former MLB pitcher Chad Durbin, he recalls his struggles to find stability in baseball, the physical and mental adjustments that led to his success, and what goes into the chemistry of a World Series-winning team.