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Groundhog Day: Brantley laments rushing back in 1998

Longtime reliever was returning from labrum surgery following trade from Reds to Cardinals

CINCINNATI -- In the movie "Groundhog Day," actor Bill Murray played cranky weatherman Phil Connors, who was forced to relive the same day over and over. Each time he faced Feb. 2, Murray's character did something different until he finally made it a perfect day. asked numerous former Major League players what they would do differently if they had a chance to relive a day of their career. Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley, a former reliever, took a slightly different tack. Brantley wanted a do-over for an entire season -- 1998.

During the previous offseason, in November 1997, Brantley was traded from the Reds to the Cardinals for outfielder/first baseman Dmitri Young. Brantley was coming off shoulder surgery that repaired a torn labrum.

"I would take a little more time when I got hurt, when I had my shoulder surgery," Brantley said. "I remember getting to the Cardinals. I'd been through all the rehab process."

Doctors with the Cardinals told Brantley he could resume throwing.

"In my mind, I'm ready to pitch," Brantley said. "I did a couple of rehab assignments in the Minor Leagues. For some reason, I picked up the phone and called Walt Jocketty, who was the general manager of the Cardinals at the time, and said, 'I'm ready to pitch right now.' The next thing I know, Dave Duncan is on the phone. He was the pitching coach with Tony [La Russa]. He said, 'I don't think you're really ready.' I said, 'Oh, I'm ready, and I'm ready right now.' I got called up to the big leagues, pitching in Colorado [on April 9, 1998] and I knew from the first pitch on that I was not ready.

"Sometimes your inner workings in your body, your adrenaline and all the things that say, 'You're ready, you're ready, you're ready.' Yet the physical part of it, not quite there yet. I would have taken longer to rehab myself and make sure I was totally ready before I came back."

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Brantley, who had a career-high 44 saves for Cincinnati in 1996, was 0-5 with a 4.44 ERA and 14 saves in 48 games for St. Louis during the '98 season. He was able to pitch the whole season but recalled being booed loudly by Cardinals fans when emerging from the bullpen.

A second surgery would be needed to repair Brantley's labrum.

"All it did was tear down everything I had built back up," Brantley said. "I had to go back and have surgery again, do all of that rehab another time, and it was just never the same after that."

Brantley had a 14-season career with the Giants, Reds, Cardinals, Phillies and Rangers from 1988-2001. Had he rehabbed properly the first time around, he might have pitched longer or finished stronger.

"I think I would have been able to pitch a lot more effectively," Brantley said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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