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Garland considering return to baseball

37-year-old threw for Sox pitching coach, says he's pain-free
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- For about one year, Jon Garland has been throwing the baseball without pain. And he's been throwing the ball pretty regularly during that stretch.

The standout starter for eight seasons with the White Sox, including an 18-10 record and 3.50 ERA during the 2005 World Series championship season, felt strong enough to throw for pitching coach Don Cooper on Sunday morning at Guaranteed Rate Field after being in town for the Mark Buehrle jersey-number retirement ceremony. Now, the 37-year-old who has not pitched since making 12 starts for the Rockies in 2013, stands in the contemplative stage of a comeback after shoulder pain leading to rotator-cuff surgery cut short a career featuring a 136-125 record and 2,151 1/3 innings pitched over 13 seasons.

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CHICAGO -- For about one year, Jon Garland has been throwing the baseball without pain. And he's been throwing the ball pretty regularly during that stretch.

The standout starter for eight seasons with the White Sox, including an 18-10 record and 3.50 ERA during the 2005 World Series championship season, felt strong enough to throw for pitching coach Don Cooper on Sunday morning at Guaranteed Rate Field after being in town for the Mark Buehrle jersey-number retirement ceremony. Now, the 37-year-old who has not pitched since making 12 starts for the Rockies in 2013, stands in the contemplative stage of a comeback after shoulder pain leading to rotator-cuff surgery cut short a career featuring a 136-125 record and 2,151 1/3 innings pitched over 13 seasons.

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"A long conversation with me and my girls at home," said Garland, referring to talking with his 3-year-old daughter and Lovie Jung, his longtime significant other and softball Olympian-turned-firefighter, as the next stage of the comeback. "The hardest thing for me would be leaving that long and saying bye to my daughter and not knowing I'm going to be able to come visit.

"I'm so deep into being a dad and being a parent. I love it, but I truly don't know if I could leave my daughter for that long."

Garland also mentioned the comeback idea to Ozzie Guillen, his manager with the White Sox, during a round of golf Friday. Guillen encouraged Garland to play winter ball for him, and Garland would definitely reach out to those he knew if the thought became a true reality.

This process began when he was getting grief from kids at his old high school in the San Fernando Valley to get out and throw the ball.

"I said you've got to give me a little bit of time, and I'll get on the mound and throw for you," Garland said. "That was the first time since I think probably 2009 where I've picked the ball up and thrown without the pain.

"My mom [Vikki, who was his first coach] explained to me that I didn't do anything for three years, and I allowed it to heal. At no point, whenever you're playing, do you have that much time off to heal. Every time you get going back again, it just re-aggravates something. But I'm pain-free."

Pitching again never seemed like a possibility to Garland, not when he felt pain every time he threw and felt as if the pain was never going away. Now that return is at the very least plausible, whether it be his preference as a starter or as a reliever.

"I've kept throwing," Garland said. "Those kids were giving me some stuff, I started throwing, and I was throwing pain-free, and it was putting a smile on my face because I love the game.

"Just walking out of the dugout and walking out to get to the mound [Sunday] ... For one, I just love the stadium, I love the city and I've known Coop -- Coop was my pitching coach when I was 18. It was a good feeling. It really was." 

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox