Pitcher Greg Nappo had already been through the fires, long before his professional career began.
After his freshman season pitching for the University of Connecticut he underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss his entire sophomore season.
For guys in college trying to get noticed by big league teams, that can create uncertainty about the future. But the lefty didn't concern himself with that. His perseverance paid off in the 18th round, when the Miami (then Florida) Marlins selected him as a junior.
What followed was another test of his perseverance.
In 2011 he was assigned to the New York Penn League Jamestown Jammers (short season) where he would (briefly) begin his professional career as a reliever. After pitching in just five games for Jamestown, he was promoted to the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Low-A South Atlantic League. There he went 4-1 with a 4.61 ERA in 41 innings of work.
"I had never come out of the bullpen in my life," he said Thursday afternoon. "It was a huge adjustment. But I got used to it and embraced not knowing what I was going to be asked to do that day. It was kind of cool."
2012 was the biggest test of all, pitching his first full regular season in Class-A. The physical expectations were felt by the end.
"It's an absolute grind. Just what you have to go through everyday to keep your body and mind in shape. You have to focus and you have to eat right at home, on the road, get good sleep, all of that is so important. And I think I learned how to take better care of myself."
His pro career was preceded by an illustrious college career that ended with a Clemson Regional Most Valuable Player honor before he was drafted (he redshirted in 2008, which means a player sits out but gains an extra year of eligibility).
After Tommy John surgery, he said he struggled to find his path again.
"I didn't have an identity. I pitched poorly. Pitching in summer league gave me confidence which made all the difference."
Going from Short-A to Low-A so quickly in 2011 was unexpected. And, at first, there was discomfort. He'd thought he would be pitching at that level for the season and suddenly he was a part of a team that had already gotten to know one another.
"I felt out of place. It was almost like I was an intruder. I needed to get my feet under me. The level of competition is excellent, so I was facing a lot of quality talent."
Despite difficulties, 2012 was highly successful. In a career high 78 innings, he struck out 103 batters. He was used as a middle reliever, closer, and even made spot starts, but felt an affinity for one role.
"Closing gave me the biggest rush."
Reports on Nappo when he was drafted were that while he didn't throw hard, he has plus-command of his fastball. Something he points to as his biggest strength.
"I had the ability this season to get my fastball by people. If I can work off of that, that's huge."
His next test? Developing his changeup.
"[I'm working on] making that a strike, rather than a 'show-me-pitch'. I want it to be an option in any count."
If history is any indication, he'll pass that test too.