Alumni Update: Cody comeback in 2017?
In June of 2014, Chris Cody, the most decorated left-handed starting pitcher in Revolution history had his Atlantic League contract purchased by the Chinatrust Brothers Elephants of the Chinese Professional Baseball League on the island of Taiwan. Cody, second in wins, strikeouts and most other all-time franchise pitching totals to only Corey Thurman, departed the club he had played for since 2011, aside from finishing that season with the Atlanta Braves at Double-A.
While Cody had certainly grown fond of York, a feeling returned and then some by Revolution fans, the salary opportunity in what is essentially the Major Leagues for China was too lucrative for the 10-year professional to pass up. The Elephants received exactly what they paid for when Cody settled into their rotation and capped the 2014 season with a 14-strikeout game to advance his club to the CPBL finals.
Between last season and beginning this year in the CPBL however, Cody sustained a tear to his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, and replacing that ligament is known to all as Tommy John surgery. With an approximate recovery and rehab schedule of a calendar year before pitchers coming off Tommy John are able to pitch in a competitive situation, Cody is realistically looking at being inactive all of next season, with a targeted return of spring 2017 to pitch again. He underwent the surgery in late August at Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery – performed by New York Mets head of orthopedic medicine Dr. David Altchek. Altchek was the same doctor that properly diagnosed former Revolution lefty Scott Rice’s elbow injury after several misreads; and eventually Altchek’s care paved the way for Rice’s path from York in 2011 to the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, before eventually pitching for the Mets on opening day 2013, after signing with them as a free agent.
The York Revolutionary Times recently caught up with Cody to discuss his pending rehab schedule, his plans for spending a year away from pro baseball in 2016 for the first time in a decade, and his potential for a comeback – one would assume with the Revolution – by the spring of 2017.
York Revolutionary Times: First of all, how is your elbow feeling?
Chris Cody: I’m doing okay. I had a cast for a little while, but once that came off, I’m in this brace now, I kind of look like Robocop. You go into the brace 12 days out of Tommy John surgery, and then about a month after the surgery you start formal rehab. It restricts your range of motion, making sure the elbow doesn’t flex. Dr. Altchek actually pioneered the type of Tommy John surgery I had, it’s called the “docking procedure.” He and Dr. James Andrews of course are at the top of that field. Altchek is kind of the Andrews of the northeast. When I visited York this summer I had (Revolution team orthopedist) Dr. (John) Deitch over at Wellspan look at my x-rays, and sent those and my MRI results to Florida as well to Dr. Andrews’ office. With all of the doctors it took them less than five minutes to come to the conclusion that I needed the work done. It’s tough to have my career interrupted, but I’m fortunate to have access to the best doctors there are for a procedure like this.
YRT: What does your rehab schedule look like?
CC: Until the rehab starts a month out of the surgery, I’m really not supposed to do anything physical or strenuous. I’m dying to at least go for a run, but I’m not supposed to until then. Four months into the rehab you can begin tossing a baseball, just easy catch. At nine months, you are cleared to begin pitching off a mound. All these deadlines are assuming your rehab goes to plan, but it’s a very organized and grueling schedule, with every exercise specific to the day and hour pretty much. At 12 months, you can be in a game competitively for one inning, and if you’re a starter like me, you just have to continue to build yourself up from there. Right now I can do some stationary bike stuff, but I like to at least get out of the house and go for walks.
YRT: So it sounds like you’re planning to pitch again?
CC: Yes, I decided I don’t want to be done yet. Of course there comes a time where you think about what the next step in your life might be, but I still view myself as a competitor, and want to get guys out. I wouldn’t have really needed the surgery if I didn’t want to come back and play. The general population doesn’t really need a healthy UCL to live a normal life. I could play easy catch with my nephews and niece down the line, and really wouldn’t be in pain, for example. The elbow would really only bother me when pitching in a competitive manner, so the surgery and rehab would be largely moot if I didn’t want to keep playing.
YRT: You mentioned some nephews and a niece, what are you up to right now as you prepare to rehab?
CC: My brother Michael is still here in the area (Brewster, NY), and he and his wife have three children now, boy, girl, boy in that order. It’s fun having them around and they’re fun to play with. I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment on September 24, and then I’ll do my first couple rehab sessions in New York. After that, I’m hitting the road to Arizona. It’s a long drive, but I need my car out there. A sane person does the trip in three days, but I could possibly do it in two. That’s where my fiancée Casey is, and the Phoenix Valley is essentially ground zero for baseball rehabbers. There are baseball players in every corner of that area and good rehab facilities, and the therapists at Dr. Altchek’s office recommended this place in that area called the Fischer Institute, so I’ll be spending a lot of time there. And it’s helpful to have other people you know there that you’ve played with and against to bounce ideas off of. I’ll be back to New York for other follow-up appointments and check-ups, and the holidays of course.
YRT: Aside from getting your arm healthy again, have you decided the other ways you’ll fill your year away without being at the ballpark everyday?
CC: Sure, this next year could really be an opportunity to experiment with some things to make a decision on what I’ll do when I do decide it’s time to hang it up. Possible substitute teaching, and I wouldn’t mind volunteering with a high school team and coaching, to see if it’s something I might want to do long-term. It definitely would be beneficial for me to try and build up my resume a little bit for a possible coaching career down the line if the opportunity presents itself. The other men in my family, my dad, my brother all are/were firefighters in the FDNY as most of the folks in York already know, so that’s a career that continues to interest me. It’s probably too late for me and the FDNY, but there are plenty of other municipalities out there where I could potentially work and become a firefighter. It may not be the thrill of the big city and having the FDNY patch on your sleeve, but it’s still a pretty good buck in some of the smaller towns and a good living. When I’m home, it will be nice to spend some time with my family and see my brother’s kids. Luckily I have a little bit of financial freedom from what I earned in Taiwan, but it will be a much different time in my life, for sure. I may also chip away at a masters degree in my free time, I already have my undergrad done from when I was studying and playing at Manhattan College in New York.
YRT: Assuming everything goes to plan, you should be fully healthy and in shape to pitch multiple innings again by April of 2017. Certainly that’s a long way off, but of course there would be a groundswell of support for you to start your comeback in York – it would be hard to imagine you playing for anyone else in that situation. Have you thought at all about potentially being in York when that time comes?
CC: You don’t want to look too far ahead, but it makes me feel great that I have a place that supports me like that. Some of my best and longest-lasting friendships in baseball are a result of playing for the Revs, some of my best friends in the game are still playing there. While the success-rate of guys with Tommy John surgery is very good, and I know so many guys who have gone through it and come back from it, you really just have to focus on your rehab and sticking to the plan. As I get closer to full health, I’ll be excited about that possibility, because I just love to compete. The fans in York, from my host family to everyone, have always treated me so well.