Masset fought through injuries to make it to bigs
By Matt O'Donnell
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
CINCINNATI — Nick Masset entered a game early in his senior season in high school wondering if he would be a first-round draft pick. When he left the mound, he was unsure if he'd ever throw another pitch.
At the time, the Reds relief pitcher was the nation's No. 11-ranked high school player by Baseball America. About 50 scouts were in attendance to see him throw for Pinellas Park High School in Largo, Fla. He appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues.
But early in the game he felt pain in his right elbow. A ligament had snapped.
"It was pretty devastating," Masset said of the injury. "I was only a 17-year-old kid and didn't know what to think."
The injury required Tommy John surgery and a yearlong rehabilitation.
With his draft status in doubt, all Masset had was a scholarship to Louisiana State University. The Texas Rangers, though, unexpectedly picked Masset in the eighth round of the 2000 draft.
Masset decided to pass on the LSU scholarship. Instead, he attended St. Petersburg Junior College, where he had fewer academic obligations and more time to focus on pitching.
"My main objective was to get back on the mound," he said.
Masset pitched 30 innings for the junior college before signing a $225,000 contract with the Rangers in May 2001. He was sent to the Rangers' Gulf Coast team, and his career appeared to be back on track.
Three years later, though, Masset was still toiling in Class A.
"I really had the stuff to be in the big leagues," he said. "But I had to get over the mental part of the game, learning how to pitch and do it efficiently."
After improving his command and his velocity, he shot up the Rangers system. He finally was called up in 2006 — six years after he was drafted.
"It was a long road and a long grind," Masset, 26, said. "When I got to the big leagues it was one of the best days of my life. I worked so hard."
Since being called up he's been traded twice — once to the Chicago White Sox and then to the Reds for his childhood hero, Ken Griffey Jr.
"The first time was probably the most weird. I thought I had moved myself up the ranks in the Texas organization and thought I had a future there," Masset said. "I wasn't expecting to get traded again. The year Ken Griffey Jr, was a rookie was the year I started collecting baseball cards. I think it's a really big statement being traded for a Hall of Famer."
Although he is still adjusting to his new team, he hopes that he has finally found a place where he can stay awhile. The big right-hander has a 1.88 earned run average in 14 1/3 innings of work. He hasn't had a decision, although he did throw two scoreless innings Sunday, Aug. 24, and was in line for a victory at Colorado until the Reds bullpen lost a late lead.
Masset is an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"I'm having a lot of fun in this organization," Masset said. "It's fun to play here."