Almost fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, at the tail end of the Australian Baseball League season with the first-place Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, Donald Lutz is headed back into familiar territory.
The 26-year-old outfielder re-signed with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday after spending the last eight years with the same organisation that took him out of Germany as a free agent wildcard and turned him into a big leaguer.
“It’s cool,” Lutz said. “I appreciate all the work they’ve done for me and I’ve got a good relationship with them. They’ve always treated me well, from Day 1 when I came in 2007, and it’s a good group, with good leadership, and I’m just excited to go back there…
“I was talking to other teams and for this year this is the best option. They [have moved] a lot of players and I’m comfortable with them, so hopefully it will open up an opportunity during the year…I’m glad they’re still interested in me and they still like me, so this should be a good year.”
Last season, one throw from left field to home at the end of April put a temporary halt to Lutz’s career. He was playing for Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats, against the Clippers in Columbus, and after an attempt to make an out at the plate, he was left with few choices.
“It was probably one of the best throws I’ve ever made because I let it rip,” Lutz said. “Usually guys feel a pop right away, but I just felt a little weird a couple minutes after. So I went to my buddy, who’s a pitcher, and said, ‘Hey man, check my elbow real quick.’ They do a test, push it in, and all of a sudden it hurt so bad. I could tell it was messed up.
“I was up that inning so I didn’t tell anyone. I had to get one more at-bat, and after my at-bat I came out and told my manager that was it. The next day we drove back to Cincinnati and got my MRI and [my ulnar collateral ligament] was torn about 90 per cent or something pretty good.
“Then the doctor gave me the option – he said I could try to rehab for three or four months, let it scar over and go from there – and then it could be good to go or it could still rip at any point again. It was so early that I knew I would be 100 per cent again for spring training [with surgery] so I said, ‘Let’s just get it out of the way.’”