I had major surgery for the first time ever last season when I had a Tommy John operation on my elbow. It's felt pretty good since returning to the roster a few weeks ago.

This is my 14th season so it took me a long time to get hurt, I guess. While the surgery kept me out for almost a year, some guys say you can come back even stronger than before. But I won't really know if that's true for me until next season.

Because I'm a little bit older, when I learned I needed surgery, I thought, "Is this it?" If this would've happened 10 years ago, I would've been done, retired. But now the medical technology is so advanced, I was back in 11 months. I only had one setback during my recovery phase, and that only took me out for a week-and-a-half. Other than that, it was smooth sailing.

That's not to say it wasn't frustrating at times. I'm a competitor; I wouldn't be playing if I wasn't. So rehab got old quick. They said it takes time, so I knew that going in. Some days you feel great, like, "Man, I can throw." I was out there playing long toss like I never had surgery. The next day comes around and I couldn't throw the ball 10 feet. That was a frustrating part.

But the worst part was watching my team lose and not being able to do anything about it. I wanted to get back fast, not only for myself but to try and help the team. We were really struggling for most of the season. Between being out and watching the team lose, this has been the most frustrating season of my career.

I had rehabbed with the team in Spring Training and in Cincinnati, so I felt more like a cheerleader at times. That was rough.

When I finally got activated, the butterflies started coming. I ran out of saliva. It was like I was making my Major League debut again, like it was my first callup. It was exciting. My first outing on Aug. 9, I came in during a one-run game and gave up a run that tied the game. But I was glad just to be contributing again.

Now that I'm back, I'm on some pretty strict rules for the rest of the season, but my pregame routine is the same as it's always been. The only difference is I have to do some arm exercises to strengthen my elbow.

Now I have a lot of work ahead of me to get back to pitching like I'm used to. But I'm glad to be healthy and I hope I can stay that way the rest of this season and in 2008.

How long will I keep playing? My wife always asks me that question. I don't know. We'll see how things go. I do know I'm playing for one reason: to get a ring. Winning the World Series is the one goal that I have and maybe it can happen in the next couple seasons. I really want to retire with a World Series ring on my finger.

From his debut in 1993 until getting shut down on Aug. 19, 2006 prior to Tommy John surgery, Eddie Guardado had logged 836 1/3 innings in the Majors. The 36-year-old left-hander has 183 career saves, including consecutive seasons of 40-plus in 2002-03 with the Minnesota Twins.