Four years is an eternity in baseball terms, but it had been nearly that long since Royals right-hander Ryan Madson pitched in a big-league game before he finished off a 10-1 season-opening win over the White Sox on Monday with a scoreless ninth inning.
“Opening days are always special,” Madson said. “This one was more special than any other one maybe other than my first just because of the time off and what’s had to go and transpire for me to get back to an opening day.”
Madson, 34, hadn’t pitched a big-league inning since working a perfect eighth inning Sept. 28, 2011, for the Phillies.
He tore his ulnar collateral ligament during spring training in 2012 with the Reds and his pitching arm didn’t recover properly.
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Madson appeared in one inning for the Angels’ High-Class A affiliate, Inland Empire, in 2013 and was out of baseball in 2014.
He signed a minor-league contract with the Royals and won the final bullpen spot out of spring training.
“I didn’t really expect anything,” Madson said. “I was working day-to-day and didn’t put too many goals on it or expectations. I just went and did what I was told every day, starting in January and ending with finally making the team.”
The Royals led 4-1 before a five-run eruption in the seventh eliminated the need for closer Greg Holland to shut the door and opened the door for Madson’s Royals debut.
“I felt like it was going to be me, so when the phone rang I definitely got that rush of adrenaline,” Madson said, clutching at his chest. “But I was surprised how calm I was out there. It just felt like the next season that was supposed to happen. It really did.”