GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cory Luebke kept his word and reported to White Sox camp on time after the birth of his first child earlier this week. All it took was a 24-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn., to Phoenix to make it happen.
Luebke told White Sox manager Rick Renteria he would make every effort to report for the team's first workout on Tuesday. But he wasn't sure how he'd pull it off as his wife remained in the hospital until late Sunday night after giving birth to their son.
After weighing their options, Luebke and his father decided driving was the best choice. So they put the pitcher's two dogs in the family truck at 3 a.m. on Monday and the two alternated between driving and sleeping for 24 consecutive hours, only stopping for gas and restroom breaks. Several days later, Luebke, a non-roster invitee to camp who threw his second bullpen session on Thursday, said he has finally caught up on sleep.
"So me and my dad started packing later Sunday night, trying to look at some flights and said, 'Hey, screw it, let's get in the truck and we can be there tomorrow,'" Luebke said. "It wasn't too bad. Dad took the first five or six (hours), and I took the next part. Drove, napped, drove, napped, got here, made it to my physical."
The length Luebke went to arrive on time shouldn't come as a surprise given what he's endured since May 2012.
Luebke, 31, was two months into a contract extension with the San Diego Padres that could have paid him nearly $28 million and pitching extremely well when he needed reconstructive elbow surgery.
In September 2013, Luebke's rehab assignment was shut down after several bullpen sessions, and in February 2014 he required a second Tommy John surgery after doctors found another tear and that his first surgery didn't take. The Ohio State product was primed to pitch again in 2015 — he made seven appearances in the Padres' farm system — before a staph infection ended his season.
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Luebke persisted despite his troubles and made the Pittsburgh Pirates' Opening Day roster in 2016, pitching in nine games before he was sent to Triple-A. Though he struggled in the majors, Luebke found a rhythm at Indianapolis, posting a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 29 strikeouts.
"Just looking back, I probably wasn't quite ready yet," Luebke said. "Stuff was good, (the Pirates) liked the upside they saw. Had my old stuff back, just wasn't locating well. After that first month I went down to Triple-A for a few months and it all started to come back."
Luebke has continued to feel well this offseason and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox in January. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman said Luebke would earn $1 million if he makes the big league roster. Given how good he feels, it's no wonder Luebke wanted to get to camp as quickly as possible. The White Sox could potentially keep a second left-handed reliever this season, and Luebke is in the mix.
But Luebke's son, Jackson, didn't arrive until eight days after his due date. In labor for 30 hours starting last Wednesday, Luebke's wife had a C-section. While the couple's child was healthy, the procedure resulted in complication's for Luebke's wife.
"The first few hours I didn't know how to feel because you look over one way and you've got a baby boy and he's doing great and you look over the other way and see your wife struggling," Luebke said. "It was tough. But it all worked out, and they're doing good now."
Roughly three hours after they arrived home Sunday night, the player, his dad and the dogs headed for Phoenix after packing. Luebke's mother stayed in Nashville to help out his wife and the baby, who are expected to join him later this spring. In the meantime, Luebke has spent much of the first few days in camp on FaceTime or looking at baby pictures. He also has managed to catch up on rest after five sleepless nights, which he said left him in a dream-like state.
Despite being a little out of it, Renteria said Luebke has looked good in camp so far.
"He's starting to hit his spots," Renteria said. "He looks like he's progressing to where he's ultimately going to be where he was previously, hopefully."
The team's new manager also said he was surprised to see Luebke report on time. Luebke, who was with the Padres at the same time as Renteria, had been in constant contact with his former coach and kept him apprised of the situation.
"He said he was going to make every effort and he did," Renteria said.