Breese native Jay Voss was driving through the mountains of Tennessee on Friday, contemplating his fresh start with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Voss, 25, a 2005 graduate of Mater Dei, was plucked by the Cardinals from the Detroit Tigers system in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.
The left-handed pitcher is recovering from Tommy John surgery and expects to be competing again in the middle of May.
"It was tough to leave the Tigers because I loved it there and I loved all the people there --all my buddies," Voss said. "But at the same time, I've got to look forward to the new opportunity at hand. I couldn't ask for anything better than the Cardinals coming along."
The Cardinals are eager to get a look at Voss, an eighth-round pick of the Miami (then Florida) Marlins in 2007. Voss likely will be assigned to Class AA Springfield or Class AAA Memphis.
"We're excited to have Jay in the organization, as we had positive reports about both his pitching ability as well as his makeup," Cardinals Farm Director John Vuch said. "All indications are that the rehab from his elbow surgery is progressing well, so we're looking forward to seeing him back on the mound fairly early in the 2013 season."
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Voss was working out in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday when he listened to a voice message from Detroit Farm Director Dan Lunetta.
"I was in the weight room doing my Tommy John rehab," Voss said. "He told me, 'Hey, we lost you today. The Cardinals picked you.' He said I would hear from somebody from the Cardinals soon.
"By the time I got back to my phone, everybody had already found out. I had to play catch-up a little bit as far as getting back to everybody and trying to get everything figured out. It was probably almost two hours before I even got to take a shower from the workout because I was on the phone so much."
Voss was traded by the Marlins to the Tigers for left-hander Nate Robertson and cash considerations March 30, 2010. Voss went 2-4 with a 4.54 ERA in 44 relief outings in 2010 with high-Class A Lakeland and Class AA Erie.
The Tigers converted Voss into a starter in 2011 and he responded with a 12-7 record and a 3.56 ERA in 27 games, 25 of them starts, with Lakeland and Erie. He was assigned to Erie last spring, but made just three starts in April before the elbow injury.
"I had a tough year in 2010, and then in 2011, I really turned the corner, I thought, and made a lot of strides," Voss said. "I was looking to build on that this past year, but coming into spring training, my arm didn't feel strong. I felt like something was possibly wrong, but I tried to get through it and see if it was just those early season getting-your-arm-in-shape (issues).
"It turned out that it was a little more serious than that. It was a bummer, because I thought I had a chance to create some momentum with the Tigers. Who knows what might have been? You can't look back at that now. I realize if the elbow was going to go, it was time for it to go. You go in, you go under the knife, you take your chances, you get a new ligament and you go on from there."
Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews performed the operation in Pensacola, Fla.
"He's the best, in my opinion," Voss said. "I couldn't have asked for a better guy to handle my arm. I felt completely comfortable with him. The facility you get it done at is first-class. Anything you could ask for is there and they treat you with 100-percent care and respect."
Voss said his arm has made dramatic progress in the last month. He'll be in the metro-east through the holidays and will continue throwing at Mater Dei and Kaskaskia College in Centralia, where he played for two years.
"Tommy John (surgery) is something that's gotten easier," Voss said. "(But) the rehab is very hard; it's very difficult. It's time-consuming and it moves along slowly. But if you have the mental toughness for it and you get through it, it's something you can come back from a little bit stronger if you do the rehab properly.
"I can't say enough about how the Tigers have handled my rehab up to this point. It's gone about as good as could be expected. I'm excited and anxious to finish that portion and get healthy. I'll report in January to Jupiter (Fla.). I'm excited to get down there and finish up the rehab, get healthy and see what I can do from there."
Voss helped Brian Tebbe coach the Aviston Legion team over the summer, which kept his mind off his injured elbow.
"That helped me stay around the game and keep my passion for the game up," he said. "You get a little down when you get hurt. Coaching those kids really picked up my spirits and got me excited about baseball. Now, it's almost like I want this season to be here (quicker) because I missed last season. It brought that youthful side of the game back into me."
Voss doesn't have a preference where he is assigned by the Cardinals, although he acknowledged Memphis would be exciting since the Redbirds' new pitching coach is former major-leaguer Bryan Eversgerd, a Centralia native who lives in Hoffman.
I've worked with him before --before I was even drafted by the Marlins," Voss said. "I worked with Bryan Eversgerd back in high school. So that's something I'm excited about, the chance to possibly work with him again."
Working full-time at Busch Stadium is Voss' ultimate goal.
"It's a great stadium. I'd love to call it home," Voss said. "I was thrilled when I became a professional. To make it to the big leagues with anybody would be a dream come true. If it was with the Cardinals, it would be a little extra-sweet since I grew up rooting for them and that's who all my family and friends root for."