Former Dodgers Farmhand Gets Second Chance After Two Tommy John Surgeries

It was Opening Night in the Pioneer League as the Grand Junction Rockies took on the Ogden Raptors on a cool, overcast evening at Lindquist Field. Both rookie ball teams were ready to begin the 2014 season. The ballpark was only half-filled on that summer night in the middle of June, and after six innings of play, the Raptors held a 7-0 lead over the Rockies.

Right-handed pitcher Garrett Bolt took the mound for the Raptors to begin the seventh inning. He was relieving Raptors starter Abdiel Velasquez, who tossed six scoreless frames to open his 2014 campaign.

For Bolt, it was his first outing in nearly three years after battling back from two Tommy John surgeries. He managed to escape the seventh inning with minimal damage as he allowed two runs to score in his first frame of work out of the bullpen. He returned to work the eighth inning and things absolutely fell apart. He was unable to record an out in his second frame of work and four more runs were charged to his name as the Raptors went on to lose the contest 11-7.

Bolt was released by the Dodgers four days later.

The Dodgers originally drafted Bolt out of Western Illinois University in the 23rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He remembers the day quite fondly. He was at home with his parents and they were listening to the live stream of the draft online. However, before he heard his name on the live stream one of his friends called him to congratulate him on being drafted by the Dodgers.

“(Our stream) was about three picks behind his so I was thinking maybe he heard the wrong name,” Bolt recalled. “While I was on the phone with him I heard my name called and it was pretty exciting.”

Bolt enjoyed success in his sophomore year at Muskegon Community College in 2010 as he finished the season going 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA. He notched a school-record 12 saves, struck out 35 batters in 29.1 innings and held opponents to a .126 batting average in his sophomore year as well.

The following year, he transferred to Western Illinois University. He did not have as much statistical success in his junior year as he went 0-3 with an 11.65 ERA in 15 games (two starts). In his 17 innings of work that year, he walked twice as many batters (20) as he struck out (10).

Bolt began his professional career with the Arizona League Dodgers, one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie ball affiliates. Not more than nine games into his rookie season, Bolt tore his UCL and required season-ending Tommy John surgery. He underwent the surgery in August of 2011 and missed the entire 2012 season.

After working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Bolt was set to return for the 2013 season. However, in April of that year, he tore his UCL again and required yet another Tommy John surgery.

During Bolt’s rehab following his first Tommy John surgery, he battled minor inflammation problems that set him back a week or two at a time. The numerous setbacks eventually led to his second Tommy John surgery in as many years.

“The second (Tommy John surgery) was easier just from knowing what to expect ahead of time.”

“My mindset towards both surgeries was to get back healthy and back on the field as soon as possible,” Bolt said. “Injuries happen and there’s no point getting down about them.”

He was able to once again work his way back to the mound, this time without any setbacks. His successful recovery from his second Tommy John surgery led him up to that disastrous outing in mid-June of last year. Bolt was disappointed to only get one shot before being released by the Dodgers, especially after working so hard for three years to get back on the mound.

“I understand it’s a business,” Bolt said. “That’s how it works sometimes.”

He was happy to finally get back on the field after being sidelined for three years. The results of his outing were nowhere close to what he wanted, but he quickly put it behind him.

“(Bad things) happen,” Bolt said.”You just have to forget about it and get ready for the next opportunity.”

Following his release from the Dodgers, Bolt was uncertain about his future in baseball. He knew it would be difficult to latch on with another organization considering he only made ten relief appearances in a four-year span. The long three-year layoff didn’t allow other organizations to adequately evaluate Bolt, and he knew he had to prove himself once again if he wanted to continue his professional baseball career.

Bolt remained unsigned for the rest of the 2014 season. During that time, he went back to school at Central Michigan University and also found a part-time job as a front desk attendant at a nearby gym. When he wasn’t working as a front desk attendant at the gym, he worked out at the gym to stay in shape just in case he got a call from a team that allowed him to continue his baseball career.

Last fall, he received a call to play in the California Winter League. He immediately accepted the offer.

“I knew it would pretty much be my last shot to show some teams what I have,” Bolt said.

He posted a 3.82 ERA in nine relief appearances in the California Winter League this past winter and recorded 17 strikeouts in 11 innings of work. He also recorded one save and was a member of the Canada A’s, who won the 2015 California Winter League Championship.

“(The CWL) was a great experience,” Bolt said. “I’m really happy with my decision to go out. A lot of good ballplayers turned out. It felt awesome to get back on the bump and face some live hitters.”

After a nice showing in the CWL, the Oregon City Mud Turtles of the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL) inked Bolt to a contract in mid-February. The deal gives him an opportunity to continue his baseball career and achieve his ultimate dream of playing in the Majors one day.

He said he’s aiming to be consistent in each one of his outings for the Mud Turtles this season.

Along with staying consistent, he also wants to stay healthy throughout the season.

His end goal is to play in the Majors, so his goal by the end of this year is to get picked up by an affiliated ball club. It will not be an easy task, but Bolt has put in the work this past off-season and will continue to work hard once the season begins in May.

Anton Joe is an Independent League Baseball Writer for Baseball Essential. You can follow him on Twitter @AntonJoe_BBE.

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