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Offseason Spotlight: Rob Bryson

November 30, 2011
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Rob Bryson (Photo: Lianna Holub)

The Rule 5 Draft is just over a week away, and one player the Indians left unprotected who should get some interest is right-handed relief pitcher Rob Bryson.

Bryson, who turns 24 in two weeks, is coming off a tough season where he missed the first two months of the season because of a broken foot that he suffered just before the start of spring training. He opened the season in extended spring training and rehabbed before making his 2011 season debut at Low-A Lake County on June 5th. He spent about a week in Lake County before moving up to High-A Kinston for a month, and then in mid-July settled in at Double-A Akron for the rest of the season.

In total Bryson made 30 appearances between the three stops and went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. In 39.1 innings he allowed 28 hits, 3 home runs, 16 walks, and had 48 strikeouts.

“I [didn’t get] a ton of innings this year, but for the most part I have made the most of my opportunities,” Bryson said in a recent interview for the IPI. “I have had a few ups and downs throughout the way, but I am working on things that I need to get better at and just trying to go out and compete when I get the chance.”

Bryson is currently pitching winter ball out in Venezuela for Bravos de Margarita where in 11 appearances he is 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA (8.0 IP, 10 H, 2 HR, 6 BB, 6 K). The extra work this winter is helping him make up for the two months he missed at the start of the season. It is also giving him a chance to gain some extra experience, work on things, and also showcase himself to teams that may consider him for the Rule 5 Draft next Thursday.

“I feel really good right now,” Bryson said. “From the limited innings I have had my arm still feels fresh and [it is good to] pitch somewhere in the offseason. I got a late start on the season and I was kind of working out the kinks as I was going. It was a little rough at the beginning but I settled in quickly.”

Bryson has battled numerous injuries since being acquired by the Indians back in July of 2008 as one of the four players the Indians received from the Milwaukee Brewers for left-handed pitcher C.C. Sabathia. He came down with a shoulder issue in August of 2008 that resulted in offseason surgery to his right labrum and rotator cuff. The subsequent rehab resulted in him missing most of the 2009 season and he was not back to full health until the 2010 season.

“I have had to deal with a ton of injuries over the last three seasons,” Bryson said. “Actually, since I have come over in the trade I haven’t really been able to stay healthy as I have been battling injuries the whole way. But one thing I have tried to do is try to perform and make the most out of the limited opportunities I have had when I am on the field.”

Bryson was more consistent with his velocity this past season as he often sat at 92-94 MPH with his fastball and occasionally popped in a 95 or 96. Even with all the success he had in his return in 2010 (7-2, 2.53 ERA, 53.1 IP, 80 K, .165 BAA) his velocity was inconsistent, but this year he has been in a much better rhythm and effortless with his delivery and that along with the return of his arm strength allowed him to get back to the consistent velocity levels he had prior to his shoulder surgery.

“My arm feels great and I feel like I am getting some arm strength back to where it used to be,” Bryson said. “My velocity has been pretty consistent and improved since last year. I have been able to pitch without pain, so I can work on things a bit more without having that in the back of my mind. Even though I had success [in 2010] I was in the training room for two hours every day just so I could go on the field. Now I can just go about my business and concentrate on things.”

The ankle injury that Bryson suffered this spring is still a sore talking point with him. He literally broke it just days before the start of spring training when he stepped in a hole while running poles at his high school facility back home. The injury no longer bothers him physically, but the timing was awful and ruined the momentum he had built from a very good 2010 season and offseason.

“I really busted my ass last offseason, so that’s the thing that sucked,” Bryson said. “I really worked hard in the weight room. I long tossed a bunch. Physically I was in the best shape of my life. And then I break my foot. It is fine now and has not been an issue while lifting, running or throwing. I haven’t tried to make it an excuse for anything and I have put it behind me and am healthy now and moving forward.”

Once Bryson recovered from his foot injury and was able to settle in on the mound this past season he worked on improving his breaking ball and adding a changeup more prominently into his pitch mix.

“I have been throwing two different breaking balls, a get me over first pitch curveball and then the hard slider,” Bryson said. “I feel like my slider is definitely better. It is my best pitch though I still don’t think I have completely found it to what it was prior to my injury. I have also added the changeup which is helping big time with lefties. I used to really struggle with lefties as I did not have anything to attack them with, so I throw it a ton now and also throw it to righties.”

Bryson has also continued to work on maintaining consistency with his delivery.

“The key to my delivery is just staying back over the rubber and getting my hand out,” Bryson said. “That is the biggest thing for me to get the good separation and timing in my delivery. Sometimes I get in a hurry and jump out and drift to the plate and drag my arm. That’s when I get a little wild and everything gets elevated.”

It was a disappointing season for Bryson on several levels from the injury to not getting rostered, but he has maintained a positive attitude through it all and is realistic about the situation he is in. He understands the quality of depth the Indians have with bullpen arms in the upper levels, and knows the injury hurt his chances to make it to Triple-A Columbus this season. He reassessed things and is happy with his season and what next year may bring.

“In the bigger picture I would have liked to be [at a higher level], but there is nothing I can do about that,” Bryson said. “All the guys in Columbus threw the crap out of the ball and the big league bullpen is ridiculous. I really had my sights set on possibly seeing Columbus at some point in the season, but obviously the injury changed all that. Once the injury occurred I had to set different goals for myself as realistically I was not in the same situation. From where I have gone since the injury I think I have accomplished everything I wanted to do in getting back and staying healthy.”

Bryson along with a host of other Indians’ Rule 5 Draft eligible players will find out their Rule 5 fate next week, but no matter what happens he just wants to finish up strong in winter ball and have the same positive vibe going into next season as he did this season before the injury.

“I am just looking forward to going into next season healthy, having a good spring training next, and staying healthy,” Bryson said.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

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