ALTOONA, Pa. — A simple look at the word pressure in any dictionary and one might find a picture of a professional reliever and they also might find that picture to be Altoona Curve relief pitcher Beau Sulser.
"My whole life I've fed on pressure and big pressure situations. I typically excel in them," Sulser said. "I think I just try to channel it in the best way, don't let the moment get too big and I get excited but I use that to heighten my awareness and my intensity to really execute pitches. The pressure of being a reliever heightens my focus."
Sulser, a 25-year-old right-hander, has thrived when given the ball this season. Opponents have scored only two runs thus far and are hitting .140 against him. A 1oth-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of Dartmouth, Sulser has appeared in 12 games and thrown 25.1 innings this season. Opponents have managed only 12 hits and two runs and Sulser has 20 strikeouts and a 0.71 ERA.
It has lifted the confidence the coaching staff for Altoona has in him..
"He can do anything he wants with the baseball. He's got a bunch of different pitches he can get over at anytime," Curve manager Michael Ryan said. "He keeps hitters off-balance. Very smart guy. He knows what he's doing out there, reads swings, knows situations and he's been very good for us."
For pitching coach Joel Hanrahan, it's much of the same sentiment.
"He's consistent. On my end, it's always nice to know you're going to get him and he's going to go after guys and be efficient," Hanrahan said. "This is my second year working with Beau. He's got more walks already this year than he did all of last year so that's a little bit of an oddity for him, but you know he's going to come in and go after guys."
Now in his third year, Sulser says the key to his success has been a strong belief in the players around him.
"Really it's just trusting my catchers and believing in the guys behind me," Sulser said. "I got myself into a little bit of trouble my first year in professional baseball trying to do too much and not trusting my defense, and trusting the people around me know what they're doing. This year I settled in. I trust what the catchers are putting down and if I execute the pitch they want me to execute it's typically going to go well."
Although the Altoona coaching staff knows what they will get from Sulser on the mound, they also saw his power stroke at the plate Binghamton when he hit the first home run of his professional career.
"I don't get to hit too often so I wasn't trying to do too much. Keep it simple and my thought process was to just squeak one through and get on base, "Sulser said.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) May 15, 2019
The home run etched his name in the pitchers who rake column and has given Sulser the opportunity to be begging for pinch hit chances when available.
"He's been in the office every day asking the same question, when is he getting a pinch-hit appearance. We've got to slow that down," Ryan said with a chuckle.
It's provided a multitude of chuckles for Sulser, Ryan and Hanrahan. For Hanrahan, it was was a tough moment to watch but not for the reasons you might think.
"I put my head down as soon as he hit it and I reacted like I was the one who gave up the homer because we're never going to hear the end of it from Beau. It was pretty well hit but I have a hard time talking about it. It's tough."
Sulser might be in the coach's office begging for at-bats for the time being, but his role is understood.
"I see a guy that knows who he is, what he has and knows what he has to do to get people out," Hanrahan said. "He's not lighting up the radar gun, he's not throwing the nasty 12-6 breaking ball like (Jameson) Taillon. He's moving around the zone, changing speeds and missing the barrel."
Sulser knows that's still much to be done.
"Honestly, I want to keep learning how to not only to be good at this level but the levels above me. There's still two more to go to reach my goal and learn from the guys above," Sulser said. "I watch a lot of baseball. I watch a lot of the film on my outings and talk to my pitching coach and my catchers on how I can approve. It's not so much the numbers. What I really try to do is execute every pitch."
For now, Sulser is donning the railroad red of the Curve and making life easy for Hanrahan and company.
"I was excited when we got Beau up here because I know what he can do and who he can be," Hanrahan said. "The length he can provide and the efficiency he provides for us, it's great to look down there and know he's there."
CURVE'S TOP HITTERS
Logan Hill, OF -- Hill is hitting 14-for-27 (.518) over the past week knocking in eight runs and scoring six himself. His batting average currently sits at .303.
Hunter Owen, 3B -- Owen homered twice in the week, putting him second in the Eastern League with 10 home runs. He also scored eight runs and had five RBIs.
CURVE'S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Cam Vieaux vs. Harrisburg on May 16: 7.0 innings pitched, one unearned run on six hits, five strikeouts and a walk. Vieaux is 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA.
Top reliever: Matt Eckelman. After returning to Altoona earlier in the week, Eckelman went three innings in two games and allowed one hit. He notched two strikeouts against Harrisburg on May 18 and lowered his ERA to 2.40.
THE ROSTER MOVES/INJURY UPDATE
Here are the roster moves over the last week:
5/16: RHP Tate Scioneaux placed on 7-day injured list. RHP Matt Eckelman assigned to Altoona.
Altoona lost the first two games in its three-game series against Binghamton before winning the final game of the series and returning home for a four-game set against Harrisburg.
The Curve's offense picked up where they left off against the Rumble Ponies but Harrisburg knocked around Scooter Hightower and withstood an Altoona comeback effort to manage its only victory against the Curve this season.
On Saturday's Ghost Bustin' night, it was James Marvel who threw a gem and led Altoona to an 8-2 victory against their Route 22 rival. Sunday brought another Curve victory as they powered through a battle with Mother Nature early in the game to escape with a 6-4 victory.
Altoona was off on Monday before traveling to New Hampshire for the first three games of an 11-game road trip that will take them to Portland, Maine and Trenton, New Jersey to face the Seadogs and Thunder.
Altoona sits at 22-20 and in second place, seven games behind division leader Harrisburg.
ALTOONA FUN THING
Promotions are what help keep Minor League Baseball fun and exciting and the promotions that have rolled through Altoona over the course of the last 21 years have been nothing short of entertaining. Saturday, their latest promotion a Ghost Busters themed night and jersey give away got them a spot on SportsCenter.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) May 18, 2019
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