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House is rejuvenating his prospect status

House is rejuvenating his prospect status
June 20, 2012
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After a rough 2011 season with the Kinston Indians, Akron Aeros starting pitcher T.J. House is rejuvenating his prospect status with a strong 2012 campaign. 

House (4-2, 3.55) started his season with the Carolina Mudcats, the third season in a row he opened in high A ball.  In 2010, House won six games and lost 10 with a 3.91 ERA, but in his second season in Kinston, his walk rate spiked as his strikeouts diminished.  As a result of his eroding command, House posted a record of 6-12 and his ERA ballooned to 5.19.

“As my first three years progressed, I got increasingly more wild and I had a higher walk-to-strikeout ratio,” said House.  “It was something that was harped on greatly not just by myself but also coaches and the guys working in the organization. 

“This offseason I made a mental note to myself that I needed to come in prepared, strong, and have my mechanics down on day one of spring training.  It’s a big part of the game not to walk a lot of guys.”

House’s third stint in high A proved to be a short stay, as he shot out of the gate with improved numbers all around.  In four starts, he won two games with a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 6:26, all while posting a 1.44 ERA.  Following his hot start to the season, House was promoted to Akron on May 1.

“It’s always nice to know that they’re paying attention and see exactly what you’re doing as a player,” said House.  “I think the biggest thing for me is that even though I got promoted, it’s still a long work in progress, and that’s just one more step toward my goal of what I want to do with my career. 

“You’ve got to kind of shut that down, put it in the back of your mind and immediately refocus -- there’s no patting yourself on the back, you’ve got to keep going toward the goal.”

Following his worst professional season, House said he was determined to come into 2012 with a more prepared approach, something he has sought to do since he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round in 2008.

“Coming right out of high school, you hear so much about wins and losses because in the major leagues that’s what they preach about,” said House.  “The guys that win the most, win the Cy Young awards and those are the guys you want on your team.

“When you first get in there, it’s a struggle because you realize that it’s not so much about wins and losses because as a starting pitcher, you might only be in there five or six innings,” said House.  “It’s a little bit tough, but once you realize it doesn’t really matter, you just move on from it.”

So far, House’s new offseason approach has paid off in a big way.  Following his sizzling start to the season in Carolina, he continued his strong pitching in Akron. 

In nine starts, House has won four games and kept runners off base, resulting in longer starts and a 3.55 ERA against stiffer competition.  More importantly, House has continued to keep his walk numbers down, surrendering just five free passes in his last three starts. 

In a string of five starts from May 18 to June 15, House pitched at least five and one-third innings in every game except one, a game postponed by rain.  He held opposing lineups to one earned run or fewer in all five games and allowed just one home run.

“I think most of it is commanding both sides of the plate, especially in this league, and getting ahead of hitters,” said House.  “These guys have a little more plate discipline here -- you fall behind and they kind of know what’s coming.  I think being able to attack them, go right after them, and not being scared to throw the ball over the plate has helped me greatly.”

House’s streak of dominance hit a screeching halt, however, against Reading on June 15.

In four and one-third innings, House allowed seven runs on 14 hits, including two home runs.  Over half the hitters he faced reached base in the game, marking his worst start in an Aeros uniform. 

“I was leaving balls a little bit over the plate and I wasn’t necessarily working each side of the plate like I wanted to,” said House.  “They got some good hits in there when I didn’t make certain pitches.”

House isn’t dwelling on his bad starts, but knows he has to limit them in order to maintain his effective season.

“I’ve got to make sure that when I go out there I throw the ball where I want to throw it and that just didn’t happen that day,” said House.  “You have those games and you’ve got to try to limit those throughout the season.”

After his prolonged success at two different levels, some are wondering when House will find himself down I-71 wearing a Columbus Clippers uniform.  House isn’t worrying, however, as he knows that if he keeps performing, his good fortune will continue.

“It’s one of those things where you just keep playing and try to force their decision,” said House.  “All I can do is go out there and pitch every five days and hopefully one of these days they’ll call me.”

Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English.  He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall.  Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.

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