Following his time in the Korean league, Oxspring suffered a severe arm injury, requiring Tommy John surgery. This is a significant injury for any pitcher to overcome, and it is always a risk that they will not return to pre-injury performance levels. However, Oxspring's form in the ABL so far suggests that his arm is doing alright. Oxpsring admitted that he was not sure how he was going to go after the surgery, and that his form 'has been a bit of a surprise'. He said 'you never know how it will go after Tommy John surgery, and you don't really know how successful it [the operation] has been until you start throwing'.
Oxspring certainly has started throwing, and has seen some great success, putting up a number of dominant performances for the Blue Sox so far. 'It feels as good as, if not better, than it did before the injury' he said
The Detroit Tigers interest and acquisition of Oxspring is a bit of a coup for the ABL. It demonstrates that Australian baseball can [still] provide a legitimate pathway to the majors. Oxspring said that the work he has been doing, and his performances on the field 'definitely' matter to US teams. He said his contract offer can be attributed a lot to the numbers he has put up in the ABL and that having some of his fellow Blue Sox hold links to the Tigers organisation has also helped. Andy Graham, who regularly forms the other half of the battery with Oxspring, has served the Tigers in the minor leagues for a number of years, and recently signed up to coach their short season A-ball affiliate. Also, Blue Sox manager Glenn Williams has been helping the Tigers scout the ABL on the east coast.
When asked about the reasons for the Sox success this season, Oxspring naturally talks pitching. 'We've been throwing the ball really well and good pitching always beats good hitting,' he said. 'We've had to pitch well, because we are not a side that is gonna score a boatload of runs, usually its only three or four a game. But so far all our pitchers have generally been going great'.
While they started the season very strong, the Blue Sox have just been knocked down a few pegs at the hands of a Melbourne side who has - so far - been starved of runs. The Aces piled on 30 runs in two shortened games on Sunday. Young Sydney pitchers Aaron Sookee and Todd Van Steensel bore the brunt of Melbourne's relentless attack. Sookee gave up 7 runs off 7 hits in 0.2 innings of work on Sunday, which followed up Friday night, when he gave up 4 runs off 4 hits in 0.2 innings. Van Steensel also gave up 3 runs in his one inning of work. 'We were inconsistent with our pitching,' said Oxspring when asked of the reasons for the heavy loss. 'We did make some quality pitches, but we made too many mistakes and [Melbourne] were good enough to get to us'.
As one of the veteran pitchers in the Blue Sox lineup, Oxspring has also taken on the role of pitching coach. It seems to be something that he has enjoyed. 'I am learning a lot about myself, both handling it all on the field, and off the field, and trying to get the balance right' he said. He now has the tough gig of helping the young arms pick themselves up off the canvas and get dusted off for the upcoming series. He says that while you can always find little things that went wrong in games like these, for the youngsters it is more important that they just focus on trying to learn from the experience. 'You've just got to try and learn something. You get given your medicine, you have to take it, and you have to become better for it. Some days you are gonna get beaten. They [Sookee, Van Steensel and co] just have to keep their chin up and keep working'.
The Blue Sox are heading out to Adelaide to take on the Bite this weekend. They will be looking to bounce back from last weekend's debacle. They meet a side who started the ABLOxspring of the Blue Sox plans for the series. 'We will go in like every week, do some preparation, and talk about what to expect'.
One of the danger-men awaiting Oxspring and his fellow Sydney pitchers is Quincy Latimore. Oxspring is aware of the threat he poses. 'If you look at the year he's had, right back to the Florida State League, he has had an outstanding season, and he has continued it over here', Oxspring observed. In terms of how the Sox will approach the Bite, Oxspring said that they want to make sure they don't make mistakes to guys like Latimore, and try to get after some of the hitters who aren't doing so well.
Regarding his plans for the rest of the season, Oxspring said he plans to keep on pitching through the rest of the schedule, but he is also keen to ensure he is right for Spring Training. 'If I get tired, I might tone it down a bit', he said. Entirely understandable!
The trip to the majors is always a long one for Aussie baseballers, and Oxspring's journey has involved a taste of the Show back in 2005, followed by some detours through Asia, and AAA-ball, before an injury setback. Heading back at 33, he will be one of the older guys trying to make a roster spot. His tenacity and perseverance are admirable, as is his realistic outlook and approach. 'It will be very tough battle [to earn a spot on the Tigers' major league roster', he said. 'It will take a lot of luck, and some good performances on the field'. While he would love to make the roster as a starting pitcher, Oxspring said that 'more than anything I think they'd look at me as a long reliever or a spot starter'. he says that either way, he would be happy to get the chance.
'You can't bank on anything in baseball', Oxspring opines. 'There are always injuries and challenges and guys who don't perform as well as expected, so there are lots of chances to make it. I just need to take them'.
Chris Oxspring is heading back to the US for the start of Spring Training in mid-February. Stay tuned to OZMLBPLAYERS.COM for all the latest ABL and Aussie baseball news. We wish Chris all the best for his trip, and will be following his progress closely.