The injury bug first bit Abbott as a minor-leaguer in 1989, when he strained his pitching elbow playing video games after a rainout. It struck again in 1992, when Abbott dislocated his shoulder while shagging flies with fellow hurler Scott Erickson during Twins’ batting practice. Abbott had won three games for Minnesota the previous season, earning him a half-share when the team won it all, but the shoulder injury soon brought an end to his Twins career.
Abbott’s frustrating quest to reclaim a big-league job was hindered by bad pitching and chronic health problems. He was terrible in five starts for the Indians in 1993, and spent the next three seasons roaming the minors in search of another chance. Against lesser competition, Abbott pitched well (leading the Triple-A American Association with 127 strikeouts in 1995) but never got the call to the majors.
The Mariners signed Abbott in 1997, showing an unusual amount of patience with the beleaguered hurler. During his first three seasons with the organization, Abbott suffered both a torn elbow ligament and a busted knee, both of which required surgery. In between, he impressed the Mariners by winning three of four starts late in the 1998 season.
During the Mariners’ pennant drive in 2000, Abbott pitched the best game of his career, holding the Red Sox hitless for more than seven innings before running out of gas. He had never even thrown a major-league complete game, much less a shutout. Abbott was rewarded with a start in Game Two of the ALDS and in Game Four of the ALCS, replacing an injured Jamie Moyer in the club’s rotation.