Ian Kendall's first season in Bowling Green, the Tampa Bay Rays Single-A affiliate, was going about as well as the former Ashland High star pitcher could have hoped.
Until he received about the worst news possible.
Barely three weeks after learning that he had been chosen to represent the Hot Rods in the Midwest League All-Star game, Kendall underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, cutting short what had been his best season as a professional baseball player.
Kendall, who led Ashland to a Class 5A state runner-up showing in 2010 before being drafted by the Rays in the fifth round, went in for a checkup after experiencing discomfort in what turned out to be his final pitching performance of the season June 5 against the Dayton Dragons. He was told surgery was necessary.
The procedure to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm was performed on Friday. Kendall, who's rehabbing in Port Charlotte, Fla., doesn't expect to throw in a game again until next year, possibly June or July.
"I've been feeling stuff for a while, but in my last outing I couldn't find the zone, so I told them," Kendall said. "(The doctor) told me the ligament was barely holding on.
"I was expecting it for a while because I was hurting pretty bad at different times, and that last outing was when it really kind of said it all. It explained itself. It just didn't feel right anymore. But I got it taken care of, so now it's all about working hard and getting back stronger than ever."
Kendall, 22, was 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings of middle relief duty for Bowling Green, and also boasted an impressive 1.86 ERA versus lefty batters. He had 27 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Those numbers were good enough to earn Kendall and four of hits teammates a spot in the MWL All-Star Game, but he had to skip it after finding out that his ailing arm required surgery.
Kendall is optimistic that he can make a full recovery.
"The surgery has advanced a lot over the years and it's been really successful," he said. "So if you take your rehab seriously and really get after it, you're going to be fine. They usually tell you that you're going to come back throwing harder. It just depends on how your body reacts and how well you take care of yourself. They're giving you pretty much a brand new elbow."
Kendall said his rehabilitation itinerary involves various strengthening exercises as well as ice treatment. All told, it takes about two to three hours a day, six days a week.
Known for hitting the weight room hard while at Ashland High, Kendall says he knows what it feels like to miss time after another injury kept him out three months last season. He didn't like it and he's determined to get back on the field as soon as possible.
"Having that experience, missing the game that much, it helps a lot knowing that if you give it your all and strive toward feeling better that one day it's going to lead to something bigger," he said.
"I'm just going to give it my all. There's nothing I can do but work hard."
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or email@example.com.