December 14, 2011. It’s edging closer to two years now. That’s the date that the Houston Astros sent reliever Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox in return for shortstop Jed Lowrie and a rookie pitcher named Kyle Weiland. The trade is notable as it was the first ever trade conducted by current Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and it also marked a continuation of a rebuilding plan set forth by Luhnow’s predecessor, Ed Wade.
The 2012 season represented a coming-out of sorts for Lowrie. Although he had trouble shedding the “injury-plagued” label, he set a then career high for games played (97) and home runs (16). The relatively successful 2012 season resulted in Lowrie then being flipped again the following offseason to Oakland (which, in turn, netted the Astros three other promising young players).
But the 2012 season wasn’t as kind to Kyle Weiland. After starting three games for the Astros, Weiland suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and he has yet to pitch an MLB inning since. Through his wife, Rachel, I was able to catch up with Kyle Weiland via email and ask a few questions. Below is his response.
Kyle Weiland in the dugout for the OKC Redhawks (Astros AAA affiliate), August 2013.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. I think a lot of Houston fans will be excited to hear an update from you. First off, how are you? Where are you?
A: I am well. Still making a lot of progress with rehab here in Austin, where I have been since the end of last season.
Q: Has playing baseball professionally always been a goal of yours or was this something you decided to pursue later on?
A: Like most boys, I always dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball player.
Q: Being that you were born and raised in New Mexico (Albuquerque, to be exact), is it safe to assume you’re a fan of the TV show “Breaking Bad”?
A: Yes, it is one of my favorites and not just because it is filmed in Albuquerque. The show has some great writers and I am looking forward to see how it all ends for Walt and the rest of the characters.
Q: You went to college at Notre Dame; which, some might be surprised to learn has produced quite a few good baseball players over the years. One that Astros fans, in particular, might know of is Brad Lidge. Have you ever spoken with Lidge before and what’s it like playing “not-football” in South Bend, Indiana?
A: No, I have never gotten the opportunity to speak with him. Baseball is obviously not the sport anyone thinks of when you talk about ND. However, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience of playing a sport in college. There are so many positive things I have taken with me from my experience at Notre Dame. The single best thing ND gave me is my wife, Rachel, who double majored in English and Chinese. Rachel has been such a blessing in my life and has been such a rock for me during these last few years. I am also thankful for the many lifelong friendships I formed with teammates and other ND students during my time at school. Shout out to Mike Howard, my freshman year roommate, thank you for serving our country. I am truly thankful for my experience at ND.
Q: July 10th, 2011. What do you remember about that date? (Weiland’s MLB debut.)
A: Every single detail. It was so surreal that I had actually accomplished my childhood dream. I took it all in and will remember it the rest of my life.
Kyle Weiland’s 2012 Topps Heritage baseball card.
Q: Less than a year later, April 21st, 2012, was your last appearance in the Majors. You had, arguably, your best start to date when you went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs, with 6 strikeouts and a walk. How and when did you know that you were injured?
A: Yes, and unfortunately, after that last start, I had felt that I had finally crossed the point where things started to click for me on the mound. My whole career, I notoriously had a rocky first couple starts to the season. It was usually by the 3rd or 4th start that I settled into a groove and found myself on the mound. Of course after I got the infection, I never was able to continue and build off that last start. I knew there was a problem with my shoulder about 3 days after my final start, when I could no longer move my right arm due to the amount of fluid pushing out on my joint. It was only a few days later that I was in for emergency surgery to flush out the infected area and was placed on IV antibiotics.
Q: Can you give us a glimpse in to what your life has been like the past year and a half and, also, what is your status currently (from a physical standpoint)?
A: Hmmm…it’s such a long story, but I’ll do my best to summarize it for you. I’ll start from the beginning, talking about going from a high to a low; I started out on an ultimate high, realizing that my childhood dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player had actually become a reality when I broke camp with the Astros to an ultimate low, as I found out later (via my at home nurse), fighting not just for my career, but for my life from a shoulder infection. Three surgeries and months of IV antibiotics later, with a new hole in my rotator cuff, demolished cartilage, and a removed biceps tendon, here I am today. Following my second surgery, doctors told me my career was now just a question mark, which was one of the hardest things I have ever had to hear in my life. Regardless, I decided that my life and career were not in any human hands, and I made a deal with God that if I made it back to baseball, it was because it was what He wanted, and that if it was His will, I would give all the credit to Him. So every single day I continue to progress, I thank and give credit to God who has made it possible for me to be where I am. Currently, I am throwing 3x a week up to 120 ft and plan to be ready to compete at spring training (God willing).
Q: Finally, we (the fans) have had such little news about your status over the past year and a half that some of us began to wonder if there’s a conspiracy theory to forget Kyle Weiland. One Astros blogger, quite creatively, came up with the idea of “Weiland Island,” a remote desert island where all injured pitchers in the Astros organization go and are never heard from again. Assuming you are one day on your own desert island, what are the three things and one person that are coming with you?
"Weiland Island," as created by Astros County.
A: My wife, Rachel, the Bible, a knife, and a flint.
Thank you very much for your time, Kyle. We hope to see you back on the field and pitching very soon!
I’d like to give a very special thanks to Rachel Weiland for her time and assistance in setting up this interview.