Any career minor leaguer needs a few lucky breaks to make it to the major leagues. For Scott Carroll, one of those lucky breaks happened to be watching the right TV channel at the right time.
While rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in his hometown of Liberty, Mo., two winters ago, Carroll stumbled upon an "HBO Real Sports" special on then-Seattle Mariners reliever Steve Delabar. Like Carroll, Delabar was a career minor leaguer coming off elbow surgery -- though Delabar's injury was far more severe than Carroll's, which required a Tommy John procedure.
Using a throwing program developed by Tom House and Jamie Evans, Delabar saw his fastball velocity spike to 97 miles per hour. He quickly went from out of baseball to rocketing through the Mariners' farm system and making his major league debut in September of 2011 at the age of 27. He wound up making the American League All-Star team in 2013, too.
"I thought, why not give it a chance," Carroll said.
The program calls for the use of a series of weighted balls ranging from two ounces to two pounds -- but in this system, the player doesn't release the ball in a number of drills, instead holding on to it while going through a throwing motion. It's an innovative way to strengthen a pitcher's shoulder, one a number of players across baseball have begun using since Delabar's success.
The payoff was quick for Carroll, who was throwing 94 miles per hour eight months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He's a sinkerballer, so that's not his bread and butter -- but it's no coincidence Carroll posted a 3.29 ERA in 11 minor league starts in 2013, then made his major league debut with the White Sox last month.
"It really helped a lot," Carroll said. "... I've been super pleased with it and recovering really well."
On Thursday, Carroll will make his third start with the White Sox. The first two have gone well, with the 29-year-old right-hander allowing one earned run with a 55 percent ground ball rate in 13 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
"He has a good understanding of what his strengths are," catcher Tyler Flowers said. "He trusts all his pitches, too. It's been a lot of fun so far."
What Flowers and manager Robin Ventura have been even more impressed with from Carroll is his presence on the mound. He worked quickly and retired the Rays with ease in his major league debut -- which was attended by nearly 40 friends and family -- then used his sinker to get out of a few jams in his last start against the Indians.
"That was something that you noticed right way is his ability and even with the family here and everything that kind of went into his first start, that the composure that he had to be able to get through it and pitch the way he did," Ventura said. "And really even in Cleveland he did the same thing. There wasn’t a big difference in personality or excitement or anything like that so he’s pretty collected in how he’s going about his business, which is nice to see."
It's far too early to deem Carroll a success story, but heading into his start Thursday night against the Cubs he could have the makings of one. The postscript to the Delabar story is that All-Star appearance and a career 3.48 ERA in four years split between Seattle and Toronto.
Carroll hopes there's a similar happy ending to his story, thanks in part to that throwing program.
"It's a great story and a tribute to him and his hard work," Carroll said, "and I know if I can just get some work in like that hopefully it'll help me."