The medical support I've received since I was found to have had a blood clot on my lung has been exhaustive but great. I joke with our Padres medical staff that the physical I underwent before I signed my contract was the longest physical in history. I felt like a lab rat.

But after going through all of the tests, I'm just happy I feel good. I just keep my fingers crossed that I don't have any more problems down the road.

Being back in a baseball uniform and coming to a new team have had a rejuvenating effect on me. After missing an entire season I'm having a lot of fun again. I feel like a really young kid again. I love the group of guys we have on the Padres, Petco Park and being so close to my home in Los Angeles.

The blood clot became apparent near the end of the 2006 season when I was with the Cubs. I was at Wrigley Field and I suddenly had problems breathing. At game time, they sent me to the emergency room and performed a number of tests, including a CT scan that revealed the clot.

Our team doctor called from the stadium to tell me my season was over and that I would probably not pitch the next season. He also told me my career might be over. It could have been a life-threatening situation -- my breathing could have just shut down had we not found the clot.

While I was out last season, I attended a few games at Dodger Stadium, including when the Padres came into town, because I'm friends with Greg Maddux and Michael Barrett from my Cubs days. I also came to the park when the Cubs came out west to see some of my other friends from that team.

It was a little tough watching from the stands. It was strange to hear that I might not play again, but I had gone through all of the scenarios with our doctor. As time went on, I prepared myself for that possibility.

But finally, after one year, I was taken off the blood thinners. I was diagnosed in mid-September of 2006 and I was off the blood thinners a year later. I started working out soon after that and then I started to throw for teams in mid-November. That schedule put me ahead of my normal offseason conditioning, but, since I had missed an entire season, I felt it was important to demonstrate to teams that I could throw the ball. I just wanted an opportunity.

So I held some tryout-type camps where I threw various sessions for various teams, and the Padres were among the teams that saw me pitch. Chris Gwynn, Tony's brother, saw me and reported back to Kevin Towers and Buddy Black.

I think the Padres signed me because they thought I could fill a role for them, whether it's long relief or as a spot starter. That's what I'm here to do. I can kind of go back and forth and pitch in a number of roles. I also have a lot of experience. We have some younger guys in the bullpen, so hopefully that experience can help them out as well.

Veteran Glendon Rusch had pitched in nearly 300 big league games before a blood clot interrupted his career late in the 2006 season. In 2005, the versatile left-hander appeared in a career-high 46 games, including 19 starts, for the Cubs.