Taste kept pitcher striving
By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No matter the setback or how bleak the prospect for a return, those 20 days in the fall of 1999 kept convincing Lance Carter to keep trying.
They also convinced his wife, Amanda, that a move to Nashville, where she plans one day to pursue a career in country music, could wait until next year.
"We've been putting it off just because of me," Carter said.
And for what happened Saturday morning.
Nearly three years and two arm surgeries since he last tasted the lavish major-league lifestyle in a late-season stint with the Royals, Carter was called up from Triple-A Durham and spent the evening sitting in the Rays bullpen at the Ballpark in Arlington.
"It's been a long grind," said Carter, who graduated from Manatee High in 1993 and lives in Bradenton. "I thought about retiring a whole bunch of times. If I had been in A ball, I probably would've shut it down. I had gotten that little taste in 1999 and thought it was worth it to try it one more time.
"It's unlike anything else."
A phone call to Rays manager Hal McRae in January started a comeback after Carter missed all of last season following Tommy John elbow surgery. The Rays granted Carter, who appeared in six games with Kansas City in 1999 and knew McRae's son Cullen, a tryout at the Naimoli Complex.
"He was hurt and coming off surgery, and we needed players," McRae said. "It only took an hour out of the day to give the guy a look."
The Rays offered a minor-league contract later that day. He accepted and has excelled since.
"We liked what we saw and signed him," McRae said. "I think he would've gotten a job anyway because he does have major-league experience."
The 27-year-old was Durham's leading pitcher. He had won seven consecutive starts and was 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 33 appearances before getting word of his promotion.
"I was hopeful," Carter said of a possible callup. "But I can't control that stuff. I just went to the park every day and did what I could. We'll see what happens."
The Rays plan to use Carter out of the bullpen, but he could get a spot start as early as Thursday against the Angels at Tropicana Field.
"This is what I've strived to get back to," Carter said. "That's what I was doing, striving to get back to where I had gotten at one point in time."
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