Scott Strickland almost called it quits in spring training, and again three weeks ago.
"Maybe my time's come and gone," was Strickland's thought.
The 34-year-old reliever had toiled long enough. He had last pitched in the majors on Sept. 28, 2005, as a member of the Houston Astros. He gave up a home run to Reggie Sanders and pitched a third of an inning, and that was it. He spent the past five years in the minors, wondering.
And then, on Thursday, he was in Oklahoma City with Triple A New Orleans when he got word to pack his bags, head to South Florida, and hook up with the Marlins. After five years that seemed like 15, Strickland cried. He had worked odd jobs over the winter to help pay the bills and raise a family, at one time working as a car repo man for his brother-in-law's company.
"I was like a little girl," Strickland said. "I called my wife first. She freaked. It's big for us financially, and with two kids. Two kids insurance wise. It goes beyond baseball. I was repoing cars. I'll probably continue to do that, but times were getting tough"
Strickland next called his father.
"We were both acting like girls," Strickland said. "Pops, he's proud."
Five years is a long time.
But, compared to Paul Schreiber, Strickland's five-year absence from the majors is nothing. Schreiber went 22 years between big-league appearances with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1923 and New York Yankees in 1945.
There were times Strickland thought he was pitching well enough to receive a major league call-up, only that call never came.
"Over the past four years, I've put up decent numbers, good numbers at Triple A, enough to warrant a call-up," he said. "But never."
Things were going good for Strickland at New Orleans until he injured an oblique muscle. That set him back. Strickland thought then that maybe it was time to retire.
"I was seeing guys get released," he recalled. "I feel like I'm standing in the way of these guys -- for what? -- and maybe time my time's come and gone."
But he didn't quit. What kept him going?
"Ego, maybe," Strickland said.
Strickland will join a bullpen that's taken its share of lumps. He knows most of the relievers. After all, most of them spent time with him at Triple A this season. In an odd twist, he was called up at the same time as Mike Lamb, who was in that same Astros lineup the last day Strickland pitched in the bigs.
Lamb said when Strickland asked if he remembered him, he had to admit that he didn't.
"I already apologized to him -- profusely -- for forgetting," Lamb said. "I can't tell you how many thousands of teammates I've had throughout my career."
Strickland is not content just to be back in the majors.
After he finished crying, he regained his senses and thought, "You better hold onto this. The ride ain't over yet just because you got called up."
-- Clay Hensley was placed on the disabled list, retractive to last Saturday, but manager Fredi Gonzalez believes his go-to set-up reliever will be ready to pitch the moment he becomes eligible again on June 27. Gonzalez said Hensley, who is out with a strained neck, played catch on Friday.
-- To make room on their 40-man roster, the Marlins transferred catcher John Baker to the 60-day DL on Friday.
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, cf; 7. Mike Stanton, rf; 8. Ronny Paulino, c; 9. Nate Robertson, p.