(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Flashback: April 21, 2002

On this date in 2002, Reds pitcher Jose Rijo made his first ML start in seven years.

He pitched five innings, not allowing an earned run, to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 at Wrigley Field. 

The 37-year old made his first start since July 13, 1995. Rijo had missed five ML seasons with elbow issues from 1996-2000. He had three Tommy John surgeries and a total of five elbow surgeries.

Here is a story about Rijo's comeback from John Erardi:

The last time, the third Tommy John surgery, there was virtually no ligament left to attach to the two bones to keep Jose Rijo's throwing arm together. So Dr. James Andrews winged it. “He had to find a strand of ligament, a strand of tendon, anything he could find in there that would stay together and heal,” Reds medical director Tim Kremchek said. "It's biblical,” Bowden says. “If the good Lord's going to bless someone, give someone a miracle, he's going to pick someone like Jose Rijo. Jose represents the word perseverance better than any baseball player, probably ever in the game.”

Here is a USA Today story on the comeback.

Rijo had returned to the majors in August 17, 2001, after a five year absence.

He appeared in 13 games in 2001, but all in relief, tossing 17 innings with a 2.13 ERA.

Rijo had planned to retire following the comeback in 2001, but decided he could not walk away from the game. He went to spring training with the Reds and made the roster.

"Boone called me over that day, and I was so nervous," Rijo said. "He stuck out his hand and told me I'd made the team. I was so numb. It was an awesome feeling."

After four relief appearances to begin the 2002 season, Rijo took the mound as a starter on April 21. He had gone seven years between ML starts and wins.

Here is the boxscore from his win on this date in 2002.

Rijo would appear in 31 games in 2002, making nine starts.

He went 5-4 with a 5.19 ERA. It would be his final season in major league baseball.

Rijo retired with a career record of 116-91 3.24, a World Series MVP, an All-Star appearance and two Top 5 Cy Young Award finishes.

What a comeback....what a character....what a career. 

Watch Rijo's return to the majors in August 17, 2001, after a five year absence.

(Photo by Getty Images