VIERA, Fla. - It's been three years since Manny Delcarmen last appeared in the big leagues.
This was a guy who posted a 2.05 ERA in 44 innings for the Red Sox in 2007 and worked the eighth inning of a World Series game. This was a guy who appeared in 73 games for Boston in 2008, serving as a key set-up man as the Red Sox again made a postseason push.
Now Delcarmen is in camp with the Nationals on a minor league deal, hoping to perform well enough to get himself on a big league roster yet again.
An elbow injury in 2010 is at least partly to blame for Delcarmen's drop-off from his days in Boston. After getting traded to the Rockies in 2010, Delcarmen hurt his right elbow, and after getting mixed messages from doctors on whether he needed surgery or not, he ended up getting a platelet-rich plasma shot in the elbow. Doctors told him it would take around 18 months for him to get his velocity back, and in that time, he bounced around from the Mariners organization to the Rangers organization, struggling at the Triple-A level.
"After 2010, the first two years was just battling my elbow, try to get my (velocity) back, rehabbing," Delcarmen said. "Then I signed with the Yankees in 2012. I was healthy, throwing hard again. Then the Orioles last year, had a great year and I didn't get the opportunity to get called up, but had a good year. I told myself if I didn't get called up, I was gonna go pitch in the Dominican, open up some more eyes, and I did that."
That stint in the Dominican Winter League this offseason ended up opening the eyes of the Nats' scouting department. Delcarmen posted a 1.88 ERA in 14 1/3 innings this winter, striking out 18 and walking four. His velocity returned, and he started experimenting with a sinker, which only helped create more deception for him.
"The league in the Dominican is pretty tough," Delcarmen said. "Faced a lot of big league hitters. For me, I developed a sinker over there instead of just being a straight four-seam guy. So definitely working with the pitching coach over there, because I was throwing hard, you just need something different to give the hitters a different look. (The sinker isn't) mastered, I can throw it for strikes, but hopefully it just keeps getting better and better."
Delcarmen said he's been throwing the sinker in his bullpen sessions this spring, and while he's adjusting to throwing it outside and dealing with the wind after having his bullpens indoors all winter, he says he likes how it feels.
The Nats were one of the most persistent teams when it came to trying to sign Delcarmen this offseason, he said, and he liked the idea of joining a young, talented team that is near his home in New Jersey.
He's as healthy as he's been in a long time, and is excited about the opportunity he has to compete for a relief spot with the Nats, even though there's plenty of competition he'll be dealing with.
"I feel 100 percent," Delarmen said. "Healthy, strong. Arm-wise, strength-wise, I feel like I did in 2008.
"I'm gonna control what I can control, and that's try to get guys out and mentally prepare myself to want to get in the weight room every day, run more. Whatever it's gonna take to make that good impression to the front office to let them know I'm ready to help them out."