The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 10, 2009

Pirates' Gorzelanny looking to bounce back

BRADENTON — The red flags, in retrospect, should have gone shooting into the air on the first day of last year’s Grapefruit League season.

Early that morning, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced left-hander Tom Gorzelanny would not make his scheduled start in their exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., because of mild left elbow irritation.

That began a downward spiral for Gorzelanny that never ended in 2008.

“Looking back on it, I might have done some things differently,” Gorzelanny said as he prepared for Friday, when pitcher and catchers report to Pirate City.

What Gorzelanny decided to do was downplay the severity of his elbow injury to the Pirates’ medical staff when he reported to spring training.

Gorzelanny won a team-high 14 games in 2007 and seemed on his way to establishing himself as one of the better young pitchers in the National League. The offseason was even better. He bought a house in Pittsburgh, got married and learned during his wedding reception that Jeff Andrews, his mentor and friend as a pitching coach in the Pirates’ farm system, had been named the major-league pitching coach to replace the fired Jim Colborn.

Thus, Gorzelanny felt he was on top of the world when he got to Bradenton last February. It didn’t really matter that he had slacked off on his offseason workouts and his elbow ached because he had not thrown enough in the winter months to keep it strong.

“I figured once we got started with spring training, everything would be fine, I’d get back into shape and my arm would stop hurting,” Gorzelanny said.

He assumed wrong. The extra 15 pounds didn’t go away and neither did the elbow pain.

By the time the season was over, Gorzelanny was a big reason why the Pirates finished 67-95 and Andrews was fired during a season in which they believed a talented young rotation would help the franchise take a step forward under new manager John Russell.

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