SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson was his usual self on Wednesday morning, which means he was friendly, pleasant and had a smile on his face.That didn't change, even when the first question was about all the rough times he has gone through the past two years.• Rangers Spring
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson was his usual self on Wednesday morning, which means he was friendly, pleasant and had a smile on his face.
That didn't change, even when the first question was about all the rough times he has gone through the past two years.
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"Yeah I have," Tolleson said. "It's not that hard. I don't know. I mean … I'm doing well with it. It has been kind of an interesting time in my life the last couple of years, just like I have struggled with baseball and struggling to stay on the field, and stuff that has been going on at home. But it has been good now that I have been able to rest ... it has been like a maturing time, learned a lot and grown a lot."
Tolleson was the Rangers Pitcher of the Year as their closer in 2015, and that was his high point. It hasn't been easy since then, on or off the field. He lost his job as closer when he struggled the following season. Then, his father, Mark Tolleson, was diagnosed with colon cancer and lymphoma, a condition that he continues to fight daily, which only added to his burden.
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Tolleson left the Rangers after the 2016 season and signed with the Rays, only to start feeling elbow discomfort in Spring Training last year. He underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on May 17.
There has still been good as well. His wife, Lynley, gave birth to the couple's second child on Nov. 10, 2016. Turner and Ames are growing up in Allen, the same hometown of their parents, north of Dallas.
"My family is doing extraordinary, and they are out here with me," Tolleson said. "My dad is doing tremendously well considering everything he has been going through. He's still alive, goes to the doctor, gets bad news … but he keeps saying he's all right and keeps chugging along. We have been able to spend so much time with him, and he's been feeling good enough to hang out and baby-sit. It has been good."
Tolleson is in a throwing program designed to get him back sometime after the All-Star break, with August as a realistic target. He was a free agent again this winter, and decided to come back to the Rangers.
"A lot of it was the organization," Tolleson said. "I think a lot of it was familiarity and knowing everybody. It's a lot easier to focus on baseball when you're not focused on: 'Can I trust this person?' or trying to meet people. A lot of it was my family; it makes life easier when I can drive down the road and do my physical therapy."
Tolleson admitted he is not always so cheerful. There are times when he does get down when going through multiple travails. But it doesn't last long.
"I wish I was in a different situation for sure, but I'm not, so there's no reason to sit and sulk about things," Tolleson said. "God has really blessed me, and I have no reason to be anything but joyous about life. At the end of the day, I haven't been very good at baseball in a couple of years. If that's the worst thing that's happened to me, I'm doing pretty good."
Tolleson has been through a lot in his career. He had Tommy John surgery in high school and missed most of the 2013 season with the Dodgers because of back surgery. The Dodgers exposed him to waivers that winter, and the Rangers claimed him. It turned out great for both Tolleson and the Rangers when he saved 35 games en route to a division title in 2015.
He hasn't forgotten how to pitch. The Rangers-Tolleson reunion has a chance to be a great thing again.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.