Podsednik sparkling with Sox
CHICAGO - Scott Podsednik played in 31 games for the Phillies in spring training and hit .309 with six extra-base hits and five stolen bases.
He thought he had done enough to make the team as a reserve outfielder. But the Phillies disagreed, offering Podsednik only a spot with their Triple A team.
At 36, Podsednik gave serious thought to retiring.
He had wrung just about all he could out of baseball, playing parts of 10 seasons with six teams and earning close to $10 million. He made the All-Star team and won the World Series with the White Sox in 2005, hitting a walkoff home run in Game 2 off Brad Lidge.
He also had a wife and two children back home in Texas. Podsednik married former Playboy model Lisa Dergan in 2006. Their daughter is 3 and their son is 1.
“I did not want to go to Triple A,’’ said Podsednik. “I knew how difficult it was going to be for me to get myself going.
“When you spent a few years in the big leagues, you kind of get spoiled. It’s tough to go down to Triple A and play with a sense of passion and urgency.
“The thought crossed my mind, ‘Will I ever make it back?’ ’’
Podsednik accepted the assignment and, predictably, was miserable. His mood was reflected in his play as he hit .197 over 23 games.
“I was just deflated after not making Philly’s club,’’ he said. “I wasn’t in the right mind-frame there. I’m not proud of that.’’
The Red Sox, their disabled list stuffed with outfielders, purchased Podsednik from the Phillies May 12 and assigned him to Triple A Pawtucket to serve as depth.
Only 10 days later, Podsednik was back in the majors, getting called up when Ryan Sweeney suffered a concussion and Cody Ross broke a bone in his left foot.
In 16 games with Boston, Podsednik is hitting .373 with an .868 OPS. He has 4 extra-base hits, 6 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases.
“He comes ready to play every day,’’ David Ortiz said. “Even when he’s not playing, he’s ready to go. You need guys with that attitude.’’
In the last four games, with Daniel Nava unavailable because of a sore left hand, Podsednik is 7 of 18 batting leadoff.
As the Red Sox prepare for this weekend’s series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Podsednik stands as one of the most unlikely heroes of the season.
“Scotty Podsednik is playing a great brand of baseball,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “He’s doing everything we ask him to do, plus some.
“Who would think? Daniel Nava goes down and he steps right up and into that leadoff spot and takes hold of it, hitting the ball hard and having good at-bats. He’s been very valuable.’’
His teammates are impressed with Podsednik’s tenacity. He played with the Royals and Dodgers in 2010, hitting .297 in 134 games. But plantar fasciitis in his left foot left Podsednik searching for a job that winter.
The Blue Jays signed him but let him go in May. The Phillies gave Podsednik a chance that lasted 11 minor league games before he fractured his left foot. After a winter spent getting his body prepared for one final chance, the Phillies sent him back to the minors this spring.
“For him to stick with it, basically swallow his pride and go to Triple A, is incredible,’’ Ross said. “I love it. He’s a great guy, a great teammate. He’s given us a big lift, a big spark. He has been a catalyst for us.’’
Ross said that in the same situation, he would have gone home.
“Scott’s been around this game so long and done some great, heroic things,’’ said Ross. “You have to respect him. He’s been there and done it. He had nothing to prove to anybody.’’
But Podsednik didn’t see it that way. The time will come to go back to Texas and start another stage of his life. But he didn’t want somebody else to make that decision for him.
“There was a bit of, I guess, me wanting to go out and prove to the baseball world that I could still play,’’ he said. “Personally I felt I could still go get it done based on the way my body felt [and] the conditioning I put myself through this winter.’’
When the Red Sox purchased his contract, Podsednik suspected something good would come of it.
“I know how things can happen in this game,’’ he said. “In ’09, I was sitting on my couch Opening Day and ended up signing with the White Sox and played every day and got 500-something at-bats.
“I’ve been through certain situations. I knew anything could happen. I still felt I had gas left in the tank.’’
As the injured outfielders get healthy, Podsednik will have to continually prove he belongs, whether it’s with the Red Sox or another team. Second chances come with no guarantees.
But Podsednik hasn’t had this much fun since that magic 2005 season with the White Sox. He also has a newfound appreciation for simple things such as putting on a uniform.
“To be honest with you, I feel like I’m playing right now as good or better than I ever have in my career,’’ he said. “I’ve learned a lot in my 18 years of professional baseball and I’ve taken all that into consideration and tried to improve and groom my skills year in and year out.
“Now it’s just a matter of keeping the body healthy. I feel like I have a good approach and I’m able to use my skill set out on the field to the best of my ability.’’
Podsednik then paused before breaking into a smile.
“Man,’’ he said. “I’m happy that I got this chance.’’