This is not how Tom Cosgrove envisioned his 2019 baseball season unfolding.
A 12th-round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2017 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Cosgrove had been steadily rising through the Padres’ minor league system, beginning the season with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
Cosgrove, the former Manhattan College ace lefthander, was living his dream. Until he wasn’t anymore.
“Everything was going great at the start of the season,” Cosgrove said. “I love Lake Elsinore. The town is great. It’s right between L.A. and San Diego, and the people and teammates couldn’t be better. I was having a great time and feeling good.
“But then I started struggling a little bit with a couple of physical problems and I went to the team doctor. He thought it would be best if I shut it down for a little while and try and get healthy again instead of trying to pitch through it. I agreed with that, so I came down to Arizona to rehab it at the end of May.”
Rehab, or “Baseball Hell” as it’s commonly referred, is not a place aspiring Major Leaguers want to spend precious summer months. It’s a grueling process that keeps you away from your team. It feels like, well, you’re in Baseball Hell.
“I’m in Peoria, Arizona, right now at our rehab facility, and it’s sweltering hot here,” Cosgrove said. “It’s usually 110, 115 degrees, and straight sun. No clouds, no rain. It’s pretty brutal.”
Toss in the fact there is not a happy camper in the entire house and it just adds to the misery that is rehab.
“It’s like there’s a black cloud here,” Cosgrove said. “Everyone here, it’s not where they want to be. Everyone is positive and everyone does their work, but at the end of the day, no one wants to be here. And it’s 115, so that doesn’t help.”
What makes matters more maddening for Cosgrove is that this is the first time in his life he has had to deal with health matters related to baseball. During his time with the Jaspers and during his first two seasons in the Padres’ minor leagues, Cosgrove never missed any time.
“I’ve always been a guy who has been healthy,” said Cosgrove, who was prohibited from revealing the exact nature of his injury by the Padres — somewhat common in the ultra-competitive professional sports world.
“I’ve never missed a start. I’ve never missed a game for any injury, ever. So this was really hard for me. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to get healthy on my own. I’ve never been a big training room guy or a treatment guy, so it was hard for me to shut it down.”
Being sidelined since the end of May also allowed doubt to creep in as to whether this could be a career-ending injury.
“Anything can happen and you can have thoughts like, ‘Damn, I may never pitch again,’” Cosgrove said. “It’s crazy to think of that but a little of that did come into it. There was a big gray area there whether the treatment was going to work or if I was going to have to stay here for a longer period of time. There was just a lot up in the air and it was frustrating for me missing a big part of the season. But I knew I would deal with whatever I had to, to get back.”
Cosgrove said he and team trainers have seen significant improvement in his time in Arizona and feels he will be green-lighted back into regular game action.
“I should be getting out of here soon, and hopefully finish up the season in Lake Elsinore,” Cosgrove said. “But I’m not sure where they’re going to send me. They could keep me here, send me back to Lake Elsinore, or send me somewhere else. That’s pretty much out of my control. But I’m feeling good now.”
Cosgrove recently pitched in his first rehab game, working one inning and allowing one hit while striking out three. He now expects to ramp up his workload in the coming days.
“I should be throwing again in the next couple of days, and then hopefully I’ll go back to Lake Elsinore or somewhere else,” Cosgrove said. “As long as I’m pitching, it doesn’t really matter where. I’ll pitch anywhere.”
After more than two months of exhausting rehab, it appears Cosgrove’s days in Baseball Hell are almost at an end.
“Yeah, can’t wait to get out of here,” he said. “I just want to get back with the team and get back to work.”