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Beyer High grad returns to the mound for the Nuts

Chris Malone had high hopes for the 2009 baseball season,

This was the year the Beyer High graduate and Modesto resident hoped to make a move up the professional ranks after five years pitching at the Class A level.

All of those hopes, however, came crashing down in a single misstep.

Late in spring training, while carrying a bag of groceries back to his basement-level apartment, Malone tripped.

"I fell full force on my fist and broke a few bones in there," Malone said. "Initially they didn't think it was as bad as it was, so they put me in a splint. They took X-rays and sent me to a specialist and I ended up needing pins in there. It cost me most of this season."

Malone, 26, has been in Modesto all season, a member of the Nuts' disabled list. He finally was cleared for action last week, and made his 2009 season debut Friday night at San Jose.

"The Rockies told me the year would be nearly entirely rehab because of the severity of the broken hand, and all they wanted was to see me back on the mound, to feel the rubber under my feet and get the sinker back," he said.

It was good for Malone that his status in the organization wouldn't depend on that first outing.

He gave up a double to the first batter he faced, then a single, a wild pitch and two more singles. Then, with two outs, he surrendered a two-run double to cap a four-run San Jose rally. The Giants would go on to win 17-7.

In all, Malone threw 24 pitches. In retrospect, he said it felt as if he were out on the mound for about two minutes.

"I was trying to do too much and by the time I got back to the dugout I was wondering where that inning went," Malone said. "It all went so fast. I was out there trying more to feel good than to make my pitches and by the time the inning was over I was left wondering what just happened."

Malone has remained positive and upbeat during the lost half-season, and remains so in the light of Friday's outing.

"I feel like I got that out of the way and now I have six weeks to pitch," said Malone, who saw action in 27 games for Modesto last season. "It's frustrating, but I'm still pitching and I'm spending time with my family.

"Everything happens for a reason, and I'm still trying to find out the reason for this happening."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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