(BaseballStL) -- For Florissant native Kyle McClellan, this isn't some average road trip he's taking as a big league baseball player.
He's a Texas Ranger. And this weekend he's coming home. Home to the place he grew up personally as well as professionally.
"It was definitely different walking by the home (clubhouse) to come over (to the visiting side)," McClellan said.
The 29-year old broke into the Major Leagues with the hometown Cardinals in 2008 and quickly established himself as a bona fide relief pitcher. After a 4.04 ERA as a rookie, McClellan lowered that number to 3.38 in 2009 before dominating in 2010 with a 2.27 earned run average.
Then, when Adam Wainwright went down in spring training 2011 it opened up a spot for McClellan in the rotation, something he always wanted. Things started off very well (4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in April) but he faded down the stretch, prompting GM John Mozeliak to acquire Edwin Jackson at the trade deadline.
Whether it was the spike in innings or not (McClellan hadn't thrown more than 75 innings in three seasons prior to that turn as a starter), his arm gave way the next season. He only pitched in 16 games, totaling 18 and two-thirds innings in 2012.
With so many young power arms coming up the system, the Cards deemed McClellan expendable and didn't offer him a contract last offseason. Thus ending his time with the club he grew up watching.
But looking back on his time as a starter after having so much success in the bullpen, the Hazelwood West graduate says he wouldn't change a thing.
"I wouldn't take it back because we won. We won a World Series and I'd give up my whole career to do that," McClellan said. "Where would I be now? There's no point in even dwelling on it. I was in a good groove there in the bullpen but what if I was able to go out as a starting pitcher and done well and held up it could have changed my career in another way so for me it was a risk worth taking and I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't change it for anything."
So far in his first year as a Ranger - McClellan got hurt again this spring training - he's pitched in just six games for barely over eight innings.
Can he get back to the level he had reached in 2009 and 2010?
"I think so. I think there's no question my stuff is still there," McClellan said. "It's just mentally getting ready to get back in the game and get to that level that I was at. I thought I was just going to roll out of bed and get back to that level. It was definitely a long process and I'm working to get better each time."