The Bryce is Right
It is early, but it looks like Double-A Akron right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell is back to the dominating pitcher he was during the 2010 season.
Stowell, 25, has been near-perfect and flat out dominating in the early going at Akron where in four appearances covering 7.0 innings he has yet to allow a run and has given up three hits, no walks, and has 15 strikeouts.
“I am working this year just to stay on top of things,” Stowell said in a recent interview for the IPI. “I think the work has paid off as I had a good spring training and feel really good and healthy.”
The 15 strikeout to zero walk ratio is incredible, and is a clear sign he is healthy. Not only is his velocity back up to the mid-90s and touching 98 MPH instead of the low 90s like last season, but his command is much improved.
When looking at last season’s numbers, you would never guess that Stowell had a down year and went through some adversity. In 24 combined appearances between short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley, Low-A Lake County, and Akron he went 1-1 with a 2.09 ERA, and in 38.2 innings allowed 21 hits, 1 home run, 21 walks, and had 57 strikeouts.
But an elbow issue that carried over from the end of the 2010 season put him on the shelf at the end of spring training last year and put some doubts in his head about his future. After some time away to rest his elbow and regroup with his mind, he finally returned in June of last year at Low-A Lake County and by July was in Akron for the rest of the season.
“Yeah, last season was definitely a learning experience I needed to go through,” Stowell said. “I was coming off a very fun 2010 season where I hit a couple of levels, though it didn’t end the way I would have liked as I ended it on the disabled list which was a little tough. I rehabbed the whole offseason in Goodyear and when I came back I was just not right.”
What made last spring doubly tough was that the Indians invited him to big league camp as a non-roster player. Those kinds of opportunities do not come easily for minor leaguers, so he pushed himself a little more than he probably needed to in order to try and make an impression during the early part of spring training last year.
Stowell’s velocity was noticeably down and while he is not a surgeon with his command it was a lot more erratic than usual. He was quickly sent to minor league camp where he spent the rest of spring training and when camp broke he stayed behind in Goodyear. He was just not yet 100% recovered from the right elbow sprain he suffered at the end of August in 2010 while pitching for Triple-A Columbus.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t,” Stowell said about the carry over with the elbow injury into last season. “I got to big league camp and was really excited about the opportunity. Mentally I could just feel [the elbow] was not where I wanted it to be and I think I tried to will myself into thinking I was good to go. When it was not and I realized I needed to take some time to get some things ironed out, I had to step back and re-evaluate some things. I was really happy I did take the time and I was happy the organization allowed me to take the time to go and work on the things I needed to.”
The disappointment with not being 100% from the injury was something Stowell worked to overcome all last season, and eventually he found his way again.
“It took some time that honestly I was not ready to put in because I thought I was ready to go,” Stowell said. “It didn’t really pan out the way I wanted it to and in turn I had to iron some things out. But I think the time I did have I really committed to it, and by the time I got out for the season I really took advantage of the time I had. It really helped me going into the offseason.”
Stowell flew through the system in 2010 where he passed through High-A Kinston, Akron and Columbus and made 42 appearances going 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA (67.1 IP, 42 H, 36 BB, 102 K). On top of that his fastball velocity spiked significantly where he was sitting in the mid-90s and even touched 100 MPH. All of that led to him shooting up the Indians’ prospect rankings and his value soared, and with that the expectations also mounted.
The injury and last season’s unfortunate byproduct with recovering from it both mentally and physically was something Stowell thinks he will benefit from in the long run.
“It is something I don’t think anyone or any player would willingly want to go through, but it was something I needed to go through,” Stowell said. “Having gone through it there is really nothing that I look at now as an obstacle. It is something where I just take every day the same and go at it as hard as I can and try and help the team win.”
Now that Stowell is healthy of both mind and body, the biggest thing he has to tackle is refining his fastball command and the quality of his secondary offerings. His plus fastball is a weapon, and he also throws a good slider. But it may be the more prominent addition of the changeup into his repertoire that is really making a difference in the early going.
“I really developed a changeup this offseason, so I am really working that into my repertoire,” Stowell said. “In the past I have been a fastball-slider guy, and I think that is what everyone has me pegged as, so throwing a third pitch in there gives me something to attack hitters with.”
If Stowell continues like he has in the early going, stuffed roster or not, the Indians are going to find a way to get him to Columbus to offer him a better challenge. But he is not worried about that as he just wants to continue to be consistent every outing and just be ready when the time comes for him to move up.
“The more you can commit to what makes you good and to your mechanics and approach to the game, then that is all you can ask for is a solid foundation and approach to every batter, every inning, and every pitch,” Stowell said. “I think being consistent in that is huge. I feel if you commit to your routine and commit to what helps you help the team is huge, and that is what I plan on doing.”
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As for Stowell, I have some information. I will have a deeper update in tomorrow's happenings, but he is being checked out to make sure he is okay.
By the way, is there a reason why you don't have an edit function for the comments section? My last comments obviously left a word omitted in the first sentence, but I couldn't edit the error.
Stowell's utilization by the Indians this year has been hard to
Can you explain the infrequent appearances and number of innings Stowell has pitched? Are the Indians being very protective of the health of Stowell's elbow? Or is it just my imagination that Stowell's use is being monitored very closely?