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Arizona Fall League Notebook
By Jack Magruder
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--Even though his arm was killing him, J. D. Durbin wanted to pitch for general manager Terry Ryan when Ryan visited the Twins' Double-A New Britain affiliate last May.
Instead, Ryan suggested arm surgery after an MRI showed a slight labrum tear, and it was a decision that has been beneficial to all parties.
Righthander Durbin's fastball registered 100 mph on two separate models of radar gun during his Oct. 29 start for Grand Canyon of the Arizona Fall League, where Durbin is finishing the season to make up for innings lost during his 37 days of recovery this summer.
Durbin has routinely been clocked at 96 mph in the AFL while pitching in his hometown, just miles from where he grew up as a football-baseball athlete. (He was the state Punt, Pass and Kick champion three times in his wonder years, and he showed up for a recent game in a Steve Beuerlein-model Arizona Cardinals jersey.)
Durbin hit triple digits in a night game against Scottsdale, which shares Scottsdale Stadium with Grand Canyon, in front of friends and family. The half-inning after Scottsdale righthander Dennis Sarfate (Brewers) struck out the side, Durbin also struck out the side while reaching 100.
"It was one of those things where mechanically you felt good, and you are throwing the ball where you want it, and you can just throw as hard as you possibly can," Durbin said. "It was one of those nights where I knew where the ball was going so I just started throwing it, unleashing it."
Durbin, 22, could not be more pleased that he decided to have the surgery early for the peace of mind engendered in his return.
His recovery was quick, almost stunningly so. Durbin said he had full range of motion three days after the procedure, in which doctors cleaned up his labrum, rotator cuff and biceps tendon. He was lobbing balls 40 feet into the shag bucket during pregame hitting in New Britain two weeks after the surgery and made a start in mid-June, on a 35-pitch limit.
Not only did Durbin have a 13-strikeout, four-hit performance in seven shutout innings his first game after a promotion to Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 4., he spent the final month of the season with the parent Twins.
"Had I had surgery at the end of the year, I'd be rehabbing right now, going into spring training not knowing what is going on,” Durbin said. "I wouldn't have built up any endurance. I wouldn't be able to come back knowing that my arm felt good. I came back strong enough to get to the big leagues, so it puts me in better position for next year.”
Durbin, a second-round pick in 2000, also is looking ahead by working on a changeup to complement his fastball and hard curve. Because of a broken right pinky finger that he can twist at a 90-degree angle to the joint, Durbin has a slightly different grip on his change than those used by Johan Santana and Brad Radke. Still, he paid particular attention to both during his time in Minnesota.
"He could go to the bullpen right now and throw fastball-breaking ball and pitch in the big leagues with that,” said Grand Canyon bench coach Jose Marzan, who coached Durbin at high Class A Fort Myers in 2003. "But I believe the Twins want him to develop into a starter, and to do that he's going to have to learn to slow the ball down a little, because he is going to face the lineup hopefully three times every time out. That's what he's learning to do. He's throwing the changeup more than he used to, and he's getting more comfortable with it. That's going to do nothing but help him.”
Durbin has such a live arm that his changeup comes in between 86-89 mph, and he is trying to take even more off the pitch.
"It's (a pitch) I really, really want to add,” Durbin said. "Throwing hard all my life, being able to throw a ball by guys, now I can't do it as much as I used to. Throwing a changeup is developing me into a better starting pitcher.”
• With a streak in which they won 10 of 13 games, the Peoria Saguaros caught American Division leader Scottsdale. The turnaround started when the Saguaros scored nine runs in the seventh inning of a 10-2 victory against Phoenix in which 10 straight batters reached with two outs in the seventh. The Saguaros were six games out at that time. Righthander Manny Delcarmen (Red Sox) won three games in relief in the run.
• Scottsdale's Rickie Weeks (Brewers) entered the final week of the season with a chance to reach Ken Harvey's Fall League records for slugging percentage (.752) and on-base percentage (.537) set when Harvey played for Scottsdale in 2002. Weeks, hitting .382-6-21, entered the final week with a .737 slugging percentage and a .520 on-base percentage.