There are just more than 3,900 kilometers between Winnipeg and the coastal city of Mazatlan, Mexico -- a distance often crossed by Canadian sunseekers en route to a warmer place.
It is also how far Edgar Osuna's arm has carried him, since the 25-year-old pitcher was just a boy tossing balls with his siblings: from Mazatlan, to the little baseball towns of the American south, and now to Shaw Park, where he figures to be a key part of the Winnipeg Goldeyes rotation this season.
He is the first player from baseball-mad Mexico to suit up for the Fish, a fact he agreed was a nice feather in his cap. "It's been very nice," Osuna said of his first week in Winnipeg, as he relaxed in the Goldeyes bullpen after practice on Monday. "I asked my American friends, 'is (Canada) different?' But I feel pretty comfortable here, and there's nice people around."
It is also, Osuna hopes, the kind of place where a pitcher can pump new life into his career. He'll get his first chance on the mound here tonight, when he pitches in the second of the Fish's pre-season tilts against the visiting Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks -- and after missing most of the last two years of baseball, the southpaw is ready to get back in the game.
Osuna was 18 years old when he signed on with the Atlanta Braves in 2006, and pitched a solid 0.92 ERA in two starts and four relief appearances with the Braves' rookie squad. He continued to play for the Braves organization until 2010, when the Kansas City Royals snapped him up in the MLB Rule 5 draft. He immediately turned in a career year, pitching 2.95 ERA in 17 starts with the AA-level Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
But injury trouble soon set in, a bum shoulder it was. After struggling with his pitches for a season, Osuna went under the knife in August 2011. What followed: a full year of rehab, a lost 2012 season and a whole lot of self-reflection. For a pitcher still looking to climb the ladder of pro baseball, it was a crossroads.
"A lot of things were going through my head," Osuna said. "But I think it helped me a lot too. It wasn't really bad to have my surgery. I sat back and thought about a lot of stuff, what I was doing right, or what I was doing wrong. It was a part of my life, and it helped me a lot to get better."
Finally, the shoulder was good enough to throw, and Osuna signed on last winter with the Mexicali Eagles of the Mexican winter league. Getting back on the field was a thrill, and he turned out well, going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 starts. "I was so excited, I was like a kid," he said. "I was nervous too, but more excited to be back after a year."
That stint was enough to catch the eye of Goldeyes manager Rick Forney, who started talking to Osuna early this year. After handling the immigration paperwork, Osuna's signing was announced in late April. He's pencilled in as a starter, the final addition to the pitching rotation.