Search it: Aardsma credits web for rebirth
Veteran reliever's trek back from multiple injuries began with simple online query
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What if you could search, "Fix my pitching mechanics," and it really worked? What if we ask David Aardsma?
"That's pretty much how it happened," Aardsma said after reporting to the Dodgers' Major League spring camp.
Aardsma is in the clubhouse on a Minor League contract, but he said he feels just about the way he did in 2009-10, when he saved 69 games as Seattle's closer. Although he hasn't saved a big league game since, Aardsma said he was confident of making this club's bullpen -- even before it lost closer Kenley Jansen to foot surgery.
Based on the attention Aardsma was getting from manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt during his first bullpen session, who's to say he won't?
Aardsma shows up with a high-tech comeback story. He ought to secure the domain for www.resurrect-a-career.com.
And the career needed saving. After the 2010 season, Aardsma had left hip labrum surgery. Favoring the healing hip in 2011, he blew out his right elbow and had Tommy John reconstruction. Last season, otherwise spent effectively at St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate, was interrupted for surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle.
The three operations took the fast off Aardsma's fastball and convinced him to go back to the drawing board -- or, actually, the keyboard.
When the 2014 season ended, the 33-year-old started surfing the Internet for video of pitchers who maintained fastball velocity through their mid-30s. He watched videos of Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan.
One of the videos had a link that led Aardsma to another video of Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. The video was housed on the website of Brent Pourciau, who was demonstrating to a college pitcher how Chapman's flawless mechanics leveraged his throwing movements into the highest velocity.
Pourciau, among other things, has been a biomechanics consultant for the Tampa Bay Rays, former employer of new Dodgers president Andrew Friedman.
Intrigued by the video demonstration, Aardsma contacted Pourciau, and they agreed Aardsma would be best served by working intensely at his clinic, Guerilla Baseball Academy.
But as with many Internet connections, logistics was an issue. Pourciau's clinic is in New Orleans. Aardsma -- along with wife Andrea and young sons DZ and JD -- lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"My wife told me to go," Aardsma said. "She said, 'It's your career. It can save your career.' I went there for four months. I moved in with one of the trainers. I recognized I had a problem and I wasn't going to give up, and I found somebody to help and I have a family willing to allow me to."
So Aardsma went to New Orleans and went all-in. Aardsma said Pourciau broke down and reconstructed his pitching mechanics, stressing leg drive and hip and shoulder rotation, while rebuilding his body through Olympic lifting.
"He was able to articulate how to emulate the other pitchers' mechanics," Aardsma said.
On Feb. 11, Aardsma held a workout for about 25 scouts. Four days later, the Dodgers announced his signing.
"At my best, I was a high-90s [mph] guy," Aardsma said. "Last year, even though I got outs, I was 86-89, and I knew that wasn't good enough. In the tryout, I was back up to 92. I think there's more there."
So do the Dodgers. That said, Aardsma is far enough removed from those 30-plus save seasons that he isn't insulted to be fighting for a role.
"I've always had the mindset that I have to earn a job," he said. "I'm confident in what I've done during the offseason that I've put myself in position to control my own destiny. All I ask for is the chance to show what I can do, and they'll make the decision."
And when baseball is over, Aardsma has a plan for that, too. While rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery, he served an internship with the Yankees focused on studying advanced analytics. More recently, Aardsma served an internship in sports management and events at the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Phoenix.
Aardsma has a few more classes to fulfill his degree requirements at Rice University, where he helped the Owls win the 2000 College World Series. To that end, last year he took a course in sports analytics -- online.