The ex-Pinellas Park star pitcher needed surgery to repair his elbow and now is pitching successfully in the GCL.
By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 8, 2001
Charlotte Rangers right-hander Nick Masset had thrown plenty of no-hitters before, but the combined seven-inning no-hitter he threw last week with a pair of relievers was something special.
It was not because it was the first no-hitter in the Gulf Coast League since Dave Martinez's on Aug. 24, 1999 or because it was the first combined GCL no-hitter since three Rangers combined to throw one on Aug. 19, 1998.
Masset had a different category for this no-hitter.
"It was the first one I threw without an injured arm," Masset said.
A former Pinellas Park standout and eighth-round pick of the Rangers in 2000, Masset's path to stardom has been navigated through a tortuous surgical detour.
At the beginning of his senior season at Pinellas Park, the ligament in his right elbow snapped like a rope, frayed by too many tug-of-wars.
Instead of being considered a first-round pick -- Baseball America had him ranked as the 11th best prospect in the country -- Masset had Tommy John elbow surgery and spent the rest of last year in rehabilitation.
Masset came out of surgery a marked man. His right arm and elbow had been torn, popped and shredded, but it also was scoped, scraped and seared back into shape.
Before Dr. Frank Jobe came up with a radical procedure to repair Tommy John's elbow, taking ligaments from the wrist and replacing them in the elbow, pitchers with a bum arm were dismissed as unsentimentally as a broken-down racehorse.
Now pitchers are recovering from serious injuries, sometimes coming back stronger.
Masset said he knew his draft stock had taken a free fall, but he was ecstatic when the Rangers selected him in the eighth round of the 2000 amateur draft as a draft-and-follow.
"I didn't even think I was going to be drafted," Masset said. "Who wants a pitcher with a bad arm? But the Rangers saw something in me and they are a great organization. I'm happy to be with them."
Masset signed with St. Petersburg Junior College this past season. He continued his rehab and returned to the mound for the first time since his injury on April 7th.
"It was great to get out there because it had been such a long time," Masset said. 'It was like taking baby steps. I kind of had to learn how to walk all over again, except it was with pitching."
After making a few appearances this spring with SPJC, Masset signed with the Rangers and reported to Charlotte.
He still is going through rehab and his pitch count is being carefully monitored. Before he threw his no-hitter last week, Masset had an 0-2 record.
During the no-hitter, Masset was the starter. He threw two innings, striking out two and walking one.
After walking the first batter he faced, Masset's catcher, Orlando Sulbaran, allowed a passed balland the runner advanced to second.
Masset then beared down. He got the next batter to fly out and the following had a dropped third strike. The batter was thrown out at first and the leadoff was thrown out trying to advance to third.
Right-hander Jorge Mendoza relieved Masset and retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced to pick up his first win of the season. Left-hander Jackson Engles pitched the final inning to seal it.
"That was awesome to be a part of," Masset said of the no-hitter. "As I watched the game, I knew it was a possibility. Hopefully there are more to come."