Arm strength encourages Sturtze

Tanyon Sturtze contemplated retirement in spring training, frustrated with his slow recovery from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

But this month, the 37-year-old right-handed reliever hit 94 mph in a game with the 51s at Cashman Field, a sign the 11-year big league veteran is on the verge of regaining his prior form.

“I feel real close (to 100 percent). I threw up some good numbers the last couple times on the mound velocity-wise, and that’s been the whole key,” Sturtze said Wednesday before Las Vegas’ 10-2 loss to Tucson at Cashman Field. “Right before I had surgery, I was throwing 94 to 95 mph, so it’s progressing really well.

“Hopefully I won’t be here much longer. It’s too hot.”

The 6-foot-5-inch, 230-pound Sturtze underwent surgery in May 2006, after posting a 7.59 ERA in 18 games with the New York Yankees.

He went 1-1 with two saves and a 4.70 ERA in 18 games for Double-A Jacksonville this season. Since getting promoted to Las Vegas on June 13, Sturtze is 1-0 with a save and a 3.86 ERA in 11 2/3 innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

While his numbers aren’t extraordinary, they’re a huge step up from last season, when Sturtze struggled to an 0-6 record in the Atlanta Braves organization, allowing 12 runs on 12 walks and 17 hits in 11 1/3 innings.

“(My shoulder) affected me a lot last year. I just never bounced back in between (outings),” he said. “But now it feels like everything’s bouncing back, and it’s about time.”

Sturtze is 40-44 with a 5.21 ERA in the majors with six teams: the Chicago Cubs, Texas, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay, Toronto and the Yankees.

After attending spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, Sturtze went 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA in six starts for the 51s before getting dealt to the Yankees for Brian Myrow.

He went 11-5 with two saves and a 5.26 ERA in 110 games for New York, where he played for current Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

“(Torre) is pretty much the only reason why I’m in this organization,” Sturtze said. “Joe just asked me to stick around and try to get back healthy just in case they need some help at the end of their (playoff) push. Hopefully I can get healthy enough to help them.”

When Sturtze was sent to Las Vegas, he didn’t have to look far for a place to stay. He moved in with his sister, who has lived here for the last 15 years.

For a couple of months in 2004, though, Sturtze was estranged from his family — a group of die-hard Boston Red Sox fans.

“It was kind of hard because we (the Yankees) were getting ready to go to the World Series, up 3-0, and (Boston) came back and beat us,” he said. “I had to turn my phone off for a couple months because I didn’t want to listen to anybody from back home.”

• NOTE — Dodgers infielder Mark Sweeney (strained right hamstring) is expected to join the 51s today to start a rehabilitation assignment.

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