Running the Comeback Trail: Josh Kinney

Joel KochSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2008

Josh Kinney, one of the bullpen catalysts of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series run. Now? He’s still on the comeback trail, running side by side with Mark Mulder.

Before we look at the now, let us in fact look at the past.

Joshua Thomas Kinney was born on March 31, 1979 in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. He wasn’t the most dominate pitcher in school and earned a scholarship to a Division II school, Quincy University.

It was there that Kinney felt like he should make his name. It didn’t go his way, as he graduated from QU after four years and went undrafted in the 2001 draft.

That’s when Kinney latched on with the River City Rascals. Two weeks later, the Cardinals purchased his contract from the Rascals and assigned him to Class A Peoria.

He didn't make his mark with the Cardinals either, as he didn’t exactly fly through the system. He spent 2001-2005 in the Cardinals system. In 2006, it was his year. He had his contract purchased from Class AAA Memphis on July 2, becoming the first Springfield Cardinal to be added to the Major League roster.

Kinney didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first cup of coffee with the Cardinals. With his first Major League pitch, he allowed a home run to Ryan Langerhans, then of the Atlanta Braves.

He was optioned back to Memphis on July 31, where he spent a full month trying to refine his pitches. It worked, as he earned a September call up.

Finally, Kinney made his mark.

He threw 11 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs (1.59 ERA) in his first big league September. He struck out eight and walked only three, earning himself a postseason roster spot.

That’s when Kinney made an even bigger mark.

In the postseason, he threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed zero earned runs, while striking out six and walking four. Kinney had made his mark and he was a lock in the Cardinals bullpen for years to come.

Kinney was on top of the world. He was in icon in Quincy, becoming the first true athlete to make it in the pros from Quincy. He had finally outdone his former teammate (who many thought was better than him) Josh Rabe.

He was also slotted down for many appearances. He was the guest of honor at the shooting clays for the Boy Scouts of America in Quincy. He was scheduled to do an autograph session at Game Masters (shooting sports store) and do a commercial for the store.

That’s when Kinney found out it’s a slippery slope at the top of the hill.

He felt discomfort in his elbow in all of Spring 2007, and finally shut it down by having Tommy John surgery. He was done for 2007, but was looking to come back strong in 2008.

That’s when tragedy struck again. He was finally getting healthy in the summer months, and then broke a bone in his elbow. His comeback bid was failed, as he and Mulder ran side by side on that infamous comeback trail.

Maybe it wasn’t all bad. The bone healed quicker than he thought, and he was at 100% (or so he said) in December. He announced at every stop on his Cardinals Caravan that he was going to be completely healthy for 2008 and be a big contributor in the bullpen.

That’s when he realized he shouldn’t speak so soon.

He found his elbow wasn't fully healed and he continued with his discomfort. So while he had surgery almost four months before Chris Carpenter, he will return a full two months after Carpenter made his return.

He was shut down for several weeks before he started his rehab and throwing program again. That’s when he realized that nothing is for sure in the sports world.

Finally, Kinney is back. He is expected to be activated from the 60 Day disabled list on September 1 and take the roster spot of Mike Parisi.

He pitched a solid inning of relief for the Springfield Cardinals on August 24, striking out one and not allowing anyone to reach base.

So finally, the top of the mountain is in sight again. Kinney is running up the slope, and hopes he doesn’t trip this time. Maybe he can put his mark on the game again and get a second World Series ring to show off in his hometown and his college town.

As a Cardinals fan, and a Quincian, I can’t wait to see #52 back in uniform. Here’s to you Josh Kinney!