Duchscherer looking forward to fresh start & good health

Justin Duchscherer just proved that he can interview hurt.

Duchscherer came down with a bad cold, but he still took questions between coughs in a noon conference call.

“I don’t usually sound like a 70-year-old smoker,” he joked.

I guess he was a little too enthusiastic after a team physician told him to “turn and cough.” It’s OK to stop now.

Duchscherer, who agreed to a one-year contract late Sunday night that could pay him $4.5 million with incentives, discussed his three hip surgeries - two on his right and one on his left - that have sidetracked his career. He was born with heads on his femurs that were too big for his hips (yet another phrase I never imagined typing), giving him less joint space than most people. It started to wear on his cartilage after years of pitching and necessitated the first surgery in 2007 to shave down the bone and create more joint space.

The second surgery, on the same right hip, was a minor procedure to remove scar tissue. The surgery on his left hip, which took place last summer, repeated the first procedure on the right hip.

“I don’t feel like there should be any issues,” he said, reminding reporters how he threw for scouts less than two weeks ago and topped out at 85-86 mph, matching his numbers last year with full effort.

“I feel as good as I have in probably five years. I look forward to being healthy finally.”

So why the Orioles?

“My agent (Damon Lapa) and I knew that because I had been injured the last few years and only pitched 28 innings last year, I’d probably have to throw for some teams to get the contract I was looking for. We weren’t real aggressive trying to get a contract done. The whole plan was to get my rehab finished on my hip to where I could get on a mound and throw for teams to show where I’m at. I threw for two or three teams before the Orioles saw me throw. I was going to throw in an open workout for all teams except the A’s the following Tuesday before I signed with the Orioles on Sunday.

“I threw for Baltimore on Friday and they immediately contacted my agent and apparently liked what they saw. They wanted me to sign with them. It came down to negotiating with the Orioles and Nationals and a couple other teams that were basically in the same position.”

That field was reduced to the Orioles and Nationals. Both teams play close to New Jersey, where Duchscherer’s son lives, and they offered him a chance to start. However, Washington’s placement in the National League was a major strike against it.

“With my back and hip history, I felt having to hit and maybe run to first base and swing the bat wouldn’t have been as good for me to stay healthy as the American League, where you have the DH,” he said.

“I feel super-excited to be part of a new organization. I had a great history with the A’s, but I think a change of scenery will be good. And being close to my son will help.”

Duchscherer talked about his bout with depression, not waiting for anyone to bring up the subject.

“It was circumstantial,” he said.

Duchscherer met his wife while pitching for Double-A New Britain, and their divorce hit him harder than any batter. She moved from Arizona to New Jersey with their son, “and that contributed to my depression more than anything,” he said.

“I worked through that and learned how to manage it better, and I know coming to Baltimore for the summer alleviates a lot of that.”

I’ll post more from Duchscherer later this afternoon.

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