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Masset aims to complete comeback with Rockies

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nick Masset is finally past the search for answers and ready to resume what until 2012 was a career as a successful right-handed setup man.

Masset is competing for a spot in the Rockies' bullpen after missing 2012 because of a shoulder injury that required surgery and being out in 2013, but figuring out that thoracic outlet syndrome was what was delaying his rehab.

"It's definitely been a long road," Masset said. "Physically, mentally, the past couple of years have been a rollercoaster for me, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of smiles and cries. I'm feeling healthy."

Masset, 31, made 231 appearances for the Reds from 2009-11 (12-11, 3.15 ERA, 217 strikeouts in 223 innings) before suffering a shoulder injury with the Reds in '12.

"Our first attempt was to rehab it for the first two or three months, but in my last or second-to-last rehab game, I completely tore it," Masset said. "That was a tough break because I'd worked so hard to get back.

"I rehabbed all offseason and came into camp [in 2013] but I got to the point where everything was great playing catch, but every time I'd try to get off a mound, my arm wouldn't agree with me. Stark pain came out of nowhere. I went to see a lot of the best orthopedic guys in the country and they said, 'Your shoulder is as stable as can be. We don't see anything wrong.'"

Masset then noticed numbness in his right hand, which unlocked the problem. Thoracic outlet syndrome -- the condition that former Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook had when he had to be rushed to a hospital after a start a few years back -- was the problem. St. Louis vascular surgeon Dr. Robert Thompson, who did Cook's surgery and diagnosed right-hander Jhoulys Chacin's nerve issue in his chest in 2012, removed a top rib from the right side.

The Rockies monitored Masset's offseason throwing and signed him to a Minor League deal.

There is an opportunity not only for a job but for a prominent right-handed role.

Matt Belisle and Wilton Lopez were used frequently last year but both are coming off subpar seasons. Adam Ottavino pitched well and saw his roles increase in importance; he is versatile enough to handle single innings or multiple innings. Their roster spots are secure barring injury, although when they pitch will depend on performance.

Chad Bettis and Rob Scahill, two younger righties, saw regular duty at the end of last season, as did veteran Manuel Corpas. Masset is likely batting them to make the team.

Manager Walt Weiss is happy to have a proven pitcher such as Masset, who is 16-14 with a 3.78 ERA in his career with the Rangers (2006), White Sox ('07-08) and Reds ('08-11), as an option.

"He's missed some time the last couple of years, a lot of time, but we feel fortunate to have this guy in our camp," Weiss said. "We feel good about the fact we're landing pitchers that had other choices. He's one of those guys that maybe three, four, five years ago, we're not getting those guys. His track record late in games is very impressive."

Masset appreciates the chance to pitch.

"I'm very blessed and excited to be healthy again," Masset said. "It doesn't matter where I'm pitching in this bullpen. My stuff speaks for itself. They know what kind of stuff I have. If I stay healthy, I feel like I'm going to be as good, if not better, moving forward."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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