By Shannon Drayer
Two and a half months after telling the team he had an undisclosed form of cancer, Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz talked on Wednesday about his diagnosis and recovery.
Datz revealed that he has been dealing with Level 2 squamous cell cancer. The diagnosis came in late spring after he found a lump in his neck. It was not his first run-in with cancer as he had battled skin cancer in the past. This was different, however.
“With my skin cancer history, one minute you’re thinking positive and saying, ‘This is local. They’ll cut it out and I’ll be good to go. It’s just like another skin cancer, but a little deeper,'” he said. “But the next minute you’re thinking, ‘With my skin cancer history I’m going to light up on these scans from head to toe,’ and five minutes later you’re planning your funeral. It’s like, ‘Woah.'”
Fortunately, biopsies from his throat, tongue and right tonsil came back clean. Datz mulled treatment options and decided to stay in Seattle and undergo radiation rather than have immediate surgery. Despite undergoing radiation treatments five days a week, while the club was home Datz could be seen nearly every afternoon throwing batting practice.
“This is therapy for me here, being here. I’ve tried to throw batting practice the whole time through radiation,” he said. “I wanted to do that to say, ‘Hey, cancer, you are not going to beat me.’ I wanted to stay active as much as I could. Pregame, throwing batting practice and Fungos, and I think I did that.”
With the radiation now behind him, Datz is hoping to soon return to the coach’s box at third base.
“I am anxious to get back at it,” he said. “It’s been amazing, the love and support from family, friends and people in baseball. All types of people from around the country. Letters and calls and texts I have received have been very nice. It is a little setback, a bump in the road, but we will get through it and we are getting through it and we will be good to go.”
News and notes
• Stephen Pryor took the mound at Safeco Field Wednesday for the first time since leaving the game April 14 with what turned out to be a torn lat. He threw 25 pitches in a sim game with Dustin Ackley, Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez stepping in to hit against him. Pryor’s fastball sat at 92 mph and topped out at 93. His breaking pitches looked sharp and he generated five swings and misses. Three pitches were popped up foul and one pitch was put in play – a grounder to third.
“His stuff looked pretty good,” Ackley said after facing him. “Kind of like how you see behind him the way the ball was coming out. Pretty good changeup, breaking ball, he had good life on his fastball.”
Don’t be too concerned that he was only throwing 92-93. For a first outing that is not out of the norm. While he can pop a 98 or 99, his average on the fastball is 96.
• Morse and Gutierrez both ran Wednesday but did not run the bases. Eric Wedge said that neither were quite ready to be sent out on a rehab assignment.
• The decision on who will start the game Thursday has been made but Wedge still was not able to formally announce it Wednesday. It most likely will be Erasmo Ramirez, who originally was scheduled to throw Wednesday night for Tacoma and of course did not.