Back problems forcing Holcomb to retire
Darin Holcomb is saying a long good-bye.
Technically, he’s still identified as Double-A Tulsa third baseman Darin Holcomb. That’s accurate, because Holcomb is on the disabled list. But he has been there several weeks and is not coming off.
Holcomb, 25, will remain on the disabled list the balance of the season, stay with the Drillers and then retire. The debilitating back condition that has plagued him throughout his professional career and caused him to miss the entire 2010 season has gotten worse.
“I was playing on pain pills for most of the year and relying on that,” Holcomb said. “And that’s just a bad road to go down to begin with.”
Holcomb played in 74 games this season and hit .261/.340/.390 with 19 doubles, four homers and 32 RBI.
The Colorado Rockies drafted Holcomb in the 12th round out of Gonzaga in 2007. In his freshman year there, he was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, a condition where one of the lower vertebra slips out of position and onto the one below it. Surgery would take away the mobility Holcomb needed at third base and was not an option while he was playing. Holcomb has had to endure pain in his lower right back and hip and shooting pain down his leg.
But he soldiered on. Holcomb was the MVP in the South Atlantic League in 2008, where he hit ..318/..400/.491 with 14 homers and a league-leading 102 RBI in his first full professional season, and jumped to Tulsa in 2009 where he began working regularly with Drillers hitting coach Dave Hajek. His back became an issue late in that season and cut short his stay in the Arizona Fall League.
“You can’t say enough about the kind of personality this kid as to try to fight back through the kind of back injury he has,” Hajek said. “It’s been pretty impressive.”
Holcomb went to big league spring training for the first time in 2010. He made it through camp with the Rockies, but his back took a sharp turn for the worse as he began to prepare for the minor league season. Holcomb left spring training in Tucson and ended up spending the bulk of his time at a Phoenix rehab facility, staying there all last season and last winter and improving to where he could come to spring training this year and try to resume his career with the Drillers.
“We really thought he would have difficulty even coming back and playing,” assistant general manger Bill Geivett said. “And to see him out there and to do what he was doing was miraculous to us.”
To read more Holcomb’s ordeal this year, which included problems in both knees and a concussion that resulted from a bad-hop grounder in his final game, and his future plans, please see the next edition of the Farm Report due out soon.