Three years ago, Andrew Werner figured he'd still be in a baseball uniform in 2012. The Tucson Padres starting pitcher just thought it would be as a coach - not as a player one level away from the major leagues.
Coming off a successful senior season at the University of Indianapolis, Werner thought there'd be a chance he'd get drafted in one of the final rounds.
It didn't happen.
He then thought maybe a team would take a chance on him as a minor league free agent.
That also didn't happen.
Werner then decided to go the independent baseball route. The only problem: No one wanted him there, either. He tried out for three teams in the Frontier League and they all passed.
A fourth team, Evansville (Ind.), gave him a tryout and said they liked what they saw. However, the team didn't have a spot on its roster and told Werner they'd be in touch.
"As far as I was concerned, playing baseball was over," said Werner before Tucson's doubleheader Sunday night at Kino Stadium against Tacoma. "I threw well at all the workouts, I just wasn't getting called.
"I was going to do some coaching. I didn't know where or what level, but that was the plan."
Things took a turn for the better two weeks after the Evansville tryout. The team called Werner and said there was now an open spot on its roster.
The 6-foot-2-inch left-hander joined the team and threw "some garbage innings out of the bullpen."
But, he threw well, and the team took notice. They moved him into the starting rotation, and the next season traded him to one of the better teams in the league.
After a successful 2010 campaign, his second in the Frontier League, Werner, a Peoria, Ill., native, was invited to a San Diego Padres tryout camp in Peoria, Ariz.
He was reluctant to go at first because he would have to pay for his own airfare and lodging. If the Padres signed him, they would reimburse him. If not, he was out the money.
His dad, Steve, a middle school baseball coach, told him to go for it.
"He said, 'If they sign you, then you can pay me back. If not, then you went for it and gave it a shot,'" Werner said.
There were 40 players invited to the tryout and the Padres signed five. Werner was one of them.
"I can't even explain how happy I was," Werner said. "That was just one of the best days I've ever had. I didn't know what was going to happen after that, but I was just happy to get a shot."
Werner, 25, made the best of his opportunity. Last season, his first with the Padres organization, he posted a 3.23 ERA in 25 starts between Class-A Fort Wayne (Ind.) and High-A Lake Elsinore (Calif.)
He began this season in Double-A San Antonio and had the same 3.23 ERA. After 18 starts, he was promoted to Tucson. He's equipped with a high 80's fastball, a solid changeup and a curve ball.
"I'm very happy to have him," Tucson manager Terry Kennedy said. "He attacks the strike zone, and he's a competitor."
Werner made his Triple-A debut Saturday night and took a no-decision in Tucson's 8-7 loss. He was charged with seven runs, but gave four of them up on a two-out grand slam.
"It was a tough way to start here, but there were some positives that came out of it," Werner said. "I'm just eager to keep working and keep getting better.
"I'm where I've always wanted to be, and now it's time to take advantage of it."