Etherton has overcome serious injuries to keep career alive

If there is anybody on the Reno Aces roster that knows about life in professional baseball, it's former first-round draft pick Seth Etherton.

Etherton, who was drafted out of USC in 1998 as he No.18 pick overall, is starting his 11th year in professional baseball. He's made many different stops, 17 to be exact, including Major League stints with the Oakland A's, Cincinnati Reds and the Anaheim Angels. If you had straight pens for every one of his stops, it would span from Oakland in the west to Erie, Pa. in the East.

He even spent part of a season playing in Korea. It's safe to say that Etherton has seen his share of the sites over the years.

It's been a rough road, full of long, boring bus trips and plenty of injuries. When you look at Etherton's bio, you see a career dotted with injuries and surgeries. He's had surgery on his right elbow, right shoulder and left knee, which has caused him to miss plenty of time over the course of his career.

- In 2000, two months after making his Major League debut with the then Anaheim Angels, Etherton was put on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. He was 5-1 with a 5.52 ERA with the Angels.

- After being acquired by Cincinnati, Etherton underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in 2001. He made 10 minor league re-hab starts and then was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees. Etherton, was eventually returned to the Reds because he was unable to perform, spent the rest of the season on the disabled list.

- After five-plus reasonably healthy seasons with the Reds, A's and Royals' organizations and posting a 27-31 record in the minors and 4-6 in the majors, Etherton again fell on hard times in 2007.

He went to Korea and compiled a 2-2 record with the Kia Tigers, but returned to the United States after spending five straight days in the hospital with stomach issues.

"It was pretty scary," Etherton said. "I was in the emergency room five straight days. They never could figure out what was causing it.

"It was a great experience (playing in Korea). I played with three guys who played in this year's World Baseball Classic. They play the game a little different. There is a lot more small ball."

Etherton described games in Korea as being "somewhat of a party" because of the way fans get into the games.

Upon his return to the United States, Etherton signed with the Marlins. He won his only game at Single-A Jupiter and then was sent to Albuquerque. He went 0-2 in two starts before an elbow injury required the aforementioned Tommy John surgery.

After re-habbing for approximately a year, Etherton signed with the Long Beach Armada, and promptly showed flashes of brilliance. He went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 16 strikeouts in nine innings. He followed that up with a 12-strikeout performance over seven innings in a GBL playoff game.

"It was real brief," said Etherton of his stay with the Armada. "I was coming off the surgery, and it gave me an opportunity to see where I was at with my rehab."

Etherton admitted having an adrenaline rush when he returned to the mound, and obviously he was ecstatic when he went through without any pain.

His performances caught the eyes of the Diamondbacks, who signed the 32-year-old last November to a minor league contract.

The fact that Etherton made the Triple-A roster says a lot about his mental toughness. A lot of guys would have hung up their cleats after having as many physical maladies that Etherton experienced.

Etherton made his Aces' debut last week in the opening series against Salt Lake City and came away with a win. He worked five innings, allowing two runs and three hits. Obviously, the veteran of the team hopes to build on that.

At 32, Etherton knows time is running out on his dream of getting back to the majors. He needs to turn in consistent numbers, and he can't afford too many slip-ups because the Diamondbacks' farm system is full of young pitchers.

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