Surgery may end career of UMaine’s Cox

Posted Sept. 07, 2010, at 10:20 p.m.

    Jimmy Cox spent more than a year working his way back from Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

Now, the slender pitcher from Bangor is facing another tedious comeback if he wants to pitch again.

The University of Maine’s fifth-year senior is likely to miss the 2011 season after he undergoes surgery next month to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his right shoulder.

“I really thought that this [2010-11] season was going to be great, because I felt awesome,” Cox said. “Before I knew it, my shoulder started aching.”

On Aug. 30, Cox and his father Jim went to Dr. David Altchek, the same orthopedic surgeon who had performed the elbow surgery, for a diagnosis. The magnetic resonance imaging showed two large tears in Cox’s labrum and rotator cuff.

“I guess I wasn’t as surprised as some people might think,” Cox said of the news that likely will end his baseball career.

“It was a heartbreaking moment. Something you’ve had a passion for since you were 4 or 5 years old, to lose it in a moment like that. It’s tough to put in all that work and have it lost.”

Cox also shared the room with his dad who, along with his mother Suzanne, has been his biggest fan and supporter.

“He realized what was going on; his son was not going to play any more,” Cox said.

UMaine head coach Steve Trimper is disappointed Cox has had another setback.

“Jimmy was obviously a big part of our team and has a great arm and a great slider,” Trimper said. “Unfortunately, sometimes you get snake-bit with injuries and he just happened to get another bite.”

Thoughts of going through another surgery, wearing a sling, and five or six days per week of rehabilitation for several months rushed through Cox’s mind. He was told the success rate for these surgeries is lower and the recovery time slower.

“It’s a minimum six months, but more like 9-12 months, and it’s a little bit tougher to come back full speed,” Cox explained. “I’m praying to God I might be able to come back at the end of the [2011] season.”

Cox will be in good hands with Altchek, who has performed surgery on the likes of major league pitchers Pedro Martinez and Mike Hampton.

Cox is prepared to do whatever it takes for one final opportunity to pitch.

“I guess I’m a little bit more prepared for this type of rehab,” he said. “The worst part is trying to sleep, you can’t turn on that [repaired] side.”

Cox, who underwent elbow surgery April 1, 2009, returned in a limited capacity last season after completing rehab. He had a minor, but routine setback in January but eventually made two appearances last season.

“It’s too bad,” Trimper said. “He worked hard on his rehab and then pitched for us at the end of last season.”

While he was never back to 100 percent, the elbow felt fine. Cox earned a one-inning relief victory May 22 at Maryland Baltimore County and worked the final inning in UMaine’s May 26 America East tournament loss to Stony Brook.

However, Cox felt a “yank” in his shoulder during the last outing. He was still experiencing discomfort in May when he reported to the Florence (S.C.) Red Wolves of the Coastal Plain League.

A doctor there told Cox to shut it down and rest up for fall baseball. When he tried to throw in August, the undiagnosed tears were causing discomfort.

That led him back to Altchek.

Cox is proud to be among a small group of Bangor High graduates  who went on to contribute at UMaine.

“I thought I had some good potential,” he said. “I thought I could hang in there at the Division I level after pitching against Miami and Notre Dame. At least I can look back on that and smile.”

In spite of difficult odds, Cox hopes to pitch again. That includes the possibility of returning in 2012, which would be possible only if he applies for and receives a waiver from the NCAA.

“He was a local boy that had a lot of success,” Trimper said. “I feel bad for him, because he’s a hard worked, a great kid and does a great job in the classroom.”

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