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Barrett frustrated by freak injuries

Barrett frustrated by freak injuries

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ANAHEIM -- Michael Barrett's frustration level is at an all-time high. The Blue Jays catcher has endured so much over the past year, and for all the progress he made heading into this season, Barrett once again finds himself on the disabled list as a result of a freak injury.

On Wednesday, Barrett hit baseballs off a tee and played catch for the second time since tearing muscles behind his right shoulder during an unfortunate play on April 17. He is making progress, but the veteran backstop is still a long way -- possibly two months -- from a potential return.

Sitting in a recliner insider the visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium, Barrett said this latest setback has provided a new low point. That's saying a lot, considering Barrett missed most of last season after fouling a pitch off his face on July 2 -- an incident that led to three surgeries to correct the damage.

"This is probably at the top," Barrett said. "Mainly because of what I went through last year and how hard I had to work to get back -- now this. Having to go back even farther to get back, it's just going to take a lot more work. The other injury was a lot of waiting it out. This is going to take a lot more work.

"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm up for it."

Adding to Barrett's frustration is how easily his latest injury could have been avoided.

Sprinting to retrieve a wild pitch from Blue Jays left-hander David Purcey, Barrett headed into foul territory down the first-base line at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Barrett grabbed the ball and made a quick throw to home plate before falling to the ground. The catcher landed on his right side, falling on a weighted bat sleeve that was sitting near the on-deck circle.

Had the weight been even a foot or two over, Barrett might not have suffered such a serious injury.

"I would've been OK," said Barrett, who also suffered a slight fracture of the right scapula. "I'm 100 percent sure I would've been OK."

The catcher cringes when recalling the cracking sound he heard and the pain he felt shooting through his upper back.

"When I fell on it, I heard it," Barrett said. "You know when you get your back popped by a chiropractor? It was like that on steroids."

Now, Barrett is prepared for a long and grueling recovery process.

At Angel Stadium, the catcher played catch from a distance of 40 feet, and he said the plan going forward calls for him to throw every other day for the next week or so. From there, Barrett will begin playing catch every day, mixing in some light hitting and going through his daily work with the training staff.

Barrett, 32, indicated that there is still a low level of pain stemming from the muscular damage -- not the fracture. He doesn't believe hitting will present any problems, but getting his arm back at full strength for throwing is going to take time.

"You can't simulate all the things you do catching-wise -- I can a little bit from playing as long as I have," said Barrett, a veteran of 12 seasons. "But, even then, you go out there and you may get a bunt play, throw the ball sidearm. That's the part I have to be the most patient with."

Barrett, who was signed to a Minor League contract over the winter and named to Toronto's Opening Day roster, knows a lot about patience.

During a game against the Rockies last July, when Barrett was with the Padres, he swung at a 1-2 fastball from pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez that sailed high and inside. The baseball flew off Barrett's bat and struck him between the eyes.

Barrett underwent three operations to repair a fracture of the frontal bone in his forehead, a shattered nose and a broken orbital bone. For months after the surgeries, Barrett suffered from blurry vision and persistent headaches, but he kept his mind trained on a return to the big leagues.

Barrett got his wish with the Blue Jays -- only to suffer another freak setback. It's just another obstacle for him to overcome.

"That's what I have to keep my mind focused on," Barrett said. "At the same time, you realize the work I'm going to have to do to get back out there is going to be a lot tougher than expected, and it's going to be probably one of the biggest challenges of my career.

"I'm just going to have to stay on top of my work. It's just going to take a relentless attitude toward this thing and never giving in. From what I understand, from the doctors, it's not an injury that's going to get worse from doing the regular things.

"I just have to be careful of the pain and make sure I don't get over a certain threshold."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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