"From July, I felt it every time I threw," he said. "It had hurt before, but never like that. My hand swelled up and I lost sensation in my fingers. Strange feeling; I felt like I was wearing a small glove.
"I knew something wasn't right, but I took anti-inflammatories and kept pitching."
Rest, the Orioles told him in October. Grimsley thought otherwise. He went home, tried to play catch with his kids and clutched at the arm.
"It hurt real bad," he said.
Days later, as he cut into Grimsley's elbow, Dr. Kremchek saw why.
Besides the raggedy ligament, Kremchek scraped out "as much scar tissue as I've ever seen," proof that Grimsley's arm had tried to repair itself from a trauma at least six months old.
Otherwise, the one-hour procedure was typical Tommy John surgery. Kremchek harvested a benign 12-inch tendon from the pitcher's right forearm and sewed it into the salvageable piece of Grimsley's damaged ligament. To anchor the transplant, the surgeon wove the tendon through a cluster of five holes that he drilled into the upper and lower bones of the elbow.
Over time, Kremchek said, tendon and ligament meld together. The procedure's success rate is 90 percent. Witness Tommy John alumni John Smoltz (Atlanta Braves), Mariano Rivera (Yankees) and Matt Morris (St. Louis Cardinals).
When Grimsley awoke, his right arm was in a sling.
"It's fixed," the surgeon said.
Grimsley rehabbed with a vengeance. He squeezed balls of TheraPutty, lifted dumbbells and yanked on Therabands, snapping several of the heavy-duty rubber strips.
January found him working the family's 525-acre farm in Kansas, clearing locust trees with a chain saw and ripping down 200 yards of barbed-wire fence.
"No," Grimsley said. "But the work needed to be done. The Lord's not going to give me anything I can't handle."
Road to recovery
By March, he was throwing overhand, building strength until he finally let loose.
"I thought, if I'm going to play at all, let's see if [the arm] holds," he said.
"Every day is a bonus now," said Grimsley, who has learned to count his blessings.
In January, a twin-engine plane slammed into the back of Grimsley's home, killing all five people aboard. Grimsley was out running errands; his two sons were in school. His wife and young daughter escaped unharmed.
"They were 45 feet from where the plane hit," he said. "The pilot did his best to avoid the house."
Shrapnel tore through Grimsley's home, shattering windows and piercing walls. Curiously, the room storing his baseball memorabilia suffered little damage, save for one broken bat and a poster of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter, after whom Grimsley's son Hunter is named.
Had he been home when the plane crashed, Grimsley thinks he would have been sitting in the family's TV room, reading the sports section. Later, as he surveyed the damage there, his eyes locked on his favorite chair. Amid the smoking wreckage, Grimsley felt a chill.
There was a hole in the back of the recliner, where a piece of the plane had ripped through.