Erik Sabrowski knew he wasn’t going to be on the lineup card when the Minor League Baseball season started.
That didn’t stop him from showing up early to Spring Training this year, joining other pitchers looking to take advantage of any opportunity to get in a few more reps while tracking progress made during the offseason before everyone else showed up.
Officially listed on the roster for the Cleveland Guardians’ Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, Sabrowski remains on the disabled list as he recovers from his second Tommy John surgery since 2018.
Having undergone the procedure in 2021, the Edmonton-area product has his eye on returning to the mound sometime in April.
“I was throwing off the mound in the fall, and near the end of that, we discovered there was a little bit of inflammation in my joints,” Sabrowski told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “We’re all good now – we just needed that to calm down.”
If all goes according to plan, the 25-year-old is hoping to make his debut in the Cleveland Guardians system sometime in late-June or early-July.
A TOUGH DECISION
Sabrowski’s first stint under the knife came right after he was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 14th round of the 2018 MLB Draft.
Admitting he was “crushed” by the development that he would need to delay the start of his professional baseball journey, the hard-throwing left-hander got to work on the long rehabilitation process, determined to make it happen.
Then the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association product hit another roadblock in his return as the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down.
He finally suited up in 2021 with the High-A Fort Wayne TinCaps, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.86 earned-run average in eight appearances, striking out 50 batters in 36 innings of work.
However, things still didn’t feel right.
“To be blunt, my elbow didn’t work.”
“I just realized that the soreness that I was experiencing was part of a bigger issue and not something that could be rehabbed away or fixed with steroid injections or things like that,” he said. “It was a tough decision to get surgery again, but I’m glad I did it.”
In October 2021, Sabrowski was back on the operating table for his second Tommy John surgery.
EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED
In what might have been viewed as a surprise move given the uncertainty surrounding a second surgery, the Cleveland Guardians selected Sabrowski in the November 2021 Rule 5 Draft.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound hurler was happy to be heading to a team that clearly had interest in seeing him prevail from injury.
Having already gone through the recovery once before, the southpaw also knew what to expect.
“There was a lot less unknown, as I knew what the benchmarks were to begin throwing and how the throwing program progressed along,” Sabrowski said. “It was also a chance to use what I had learned from the first rehab and things that I enjoyed, I really delved deeper into those.”
He says it also allowed him to get away from the things that didn’t work the first time, so he became hyper-focused on what worked as well as some of the new ideas that the new team could offer.
Sabrowski says it was good to know what the physical grind of working on the minute day-to-day recovery and getting his range of motion back would look like, but the mental side was tougher to handle.
“Coming from the highs of finally making it out to an affiliate in Fort Wayne and pitching and showing the organization what I could do to, then, all of a sudden, snap of the fingers and it’s back to square one – that’s hard,” he said. “And then mentally know that, unfortunately, baseball gets taken away from me for another 15-16 months or whatever it is.”
Sabrowski used the extended time off to not only work on himself, but to give back to the game in his home province.
In October 2022, the Cloud County Community College grad joined the staff at AHP Academy for the fall and winter.
“Coaching is something I always thought I would do.”
Sabrowski gives a ton of credit in his rehabilitation to AHP’s Taylor Burns, who he has worked with since he was 13.
THE ROCKY ROAD BACK
With 2022 in the rearview mirror, Sabrowski is focused solely on getting back onto a minor league roster with the Guardians.
“I’m itching and clawing to get my way back there,” he said. “I’m asking the trainers every day when I can throw again, and when the time comes, I plan on being ready.”
The former Edmonton Prospects two-way threat won’t be content on just getting back to the pros either, as he also has his eyes on the big club.
“Eventually one day, I plan on pitching in the big leagues,” Sabrowski said. “I know I have the ability to do that.”
Giving credit to his fiance, Renee, and his family support system for helping him get to where he is at today, he believes the lessons he has learned will help future generations of athletes, which is part of the reason why he stays connected with his roots in Edmonton.
“There is no one path to success and success never comes in a straight line,” he said.
While that sentiment is certainly true for Erik Sabrowski, we hope his pro journey becomes smoother in 2023 and beyond.
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