Fry optimistic after second Tommy John surgery

White Sox prospect has his eyes set on a July return

February 16th, 2016

CHICAGO -- Jace Fry can still remember the outing, even if most people last March 29 in Goodyear, Ariz., recall nothing more than sunshine.

Wearing No. 98 as a Minor League callup for Cactus League action, the White Sox third-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft pitched three scoreless innings to save a White Sox victory over the Indians. Fry's outing included a strikeout of Jason Kipnis and a double play grounder from Michael Bourn.

"That was cool," said Fry, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery in June. "It was obviously one of my better days throwing strikes, coming in the zone.

"It was a little bit more of an adrenaline rush getting out there and facing those guys. I was happy with the outcome."

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White Sox pitchers and catchers officially report to Camelback Ranch on Friday, and in a healthy world for Fry, the southpaw probably would be part of that group in big league camp. There was even talk last season that Fry could provide late-season help.

Instead, the 22-year-old is working through the early stages of his throwing program after the second surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament. Fry had his first procedure in 2012 when playing for Oregon State. Fry knows that it's tougher to come back from a second one, but he was ready to begin the comeback following his most recent operation. Fry has his eyes set on a July return barring any setbacks. 

The possibility of a third similar injury doesn't deter the team's 20th-ranked prospect.

"As soon as I found it, I was like, 'Let's set up a date and get this done,'" Fry said. "I'm still young. Even if it happens again, I still would get it done again and try to rehab it. I'm trying not to be another statistic. We are hoping this one is cleared and ready to go for hopefully the rest of my career."

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Added White Sox Minor League field coordinator Kirk Champion: "In a way, it has changed his focus a little bit. The work that it takes to get back forces you to work just as hard as you would during the season. I'm sure it's a setback for him, but he opened up enough eyes with his outing in Spring Training and the outings he had during the season that people have a feel for what he is."

Fry, who posted a 1-8 record with a 3.63 ERA over 10 starts for Class A Winston-Salem in 2015, will probably have a quicker path to the Majors as a reliever. He has last year's Cactus League effort in his mind, although he didn't keep any mementos from the afternoon.

"Hopefully I'll keep the first big league ball I get," Fry said with a smile. "It was encouraging. Just the feedback and the coaches, they all were liking what they were seeing through the season. It was a blow, but this is baseball.

"You can't get too high or too low. You have to try to stay even keel, and I'm still feeling pretty good about next season."