ST. PAUL, Minn. | Gearing up for American Association baseball’s postseason playoffs, the Sioux City Explorers have acquired a former major league pitcher who will be starting Thursday night in the club’s final regular season meeting with the St. Paul Saints.
John Ely, a suburban Chicago native who made 18 starts with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, hopes to crank up his comeback from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery with a late-season stint for the X’s.
“He’s bringing us some savvy to the mound, someone who knows how to pitch,’’ said X’s Manager Steve Montgomery. “The biggest thing is I’ve got to make sure he’s healthy.’’
The Explorers have been seeking a veteran starter ever since veteran Jeff Marquez, who pitched in the big leagues for the Yankees and White Sox, developed shoulder trouble that may sideline him for the rest of the year.
Ely, 29, was a third-round draft pick by the White Sox in 2007 after three seasons at Miami of Ohio, where he was 26-7 with a 3.07 ERA, striking out 284 batters and walking only 64 in 281.2 innings.
After going 14-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 2009 for the Class AA Birmingham Barons, he was one of two pitchers shipped to the Dodgers in a trade for outfielder Juan Pierre. Coincidentally, the other hurler involved in that swap was Jon Link, recently reacquired by the Wichita Wingnuts, another team that appears headed for the four-team American Association playoffs.
Ely got the call from the Dodgers early in the 2010 season and caused a minor stir with his first seven starts, going 3-1 with a 1.80 from his second through seventh appearances, losing only a 1-0 squeaker to the Cubs. Unfortunately, he finished the year 4-10 as the Dodgers scored three runs or less in eight of his 10 losses and demoted him to the Class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes.
Called up for brief stints with the Dodgers each of the next two seasons, Ely was the 2012 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA for Albuquerque while leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts (165).
Traded to the Houston Astros, he made one 2013 start for Oklahoma City before undergoing the Tommy John surgery which has limited his appearances over the last two-plus seasons. Acquired by the Brewers, he made just two Class AAA starts for Colorado Springs before being released on July 23.