ALTOONA, Pa. — It should come as no surprise Altoona Curve pitcher Brandon Waddell has embraced the opportunity to return to a starting pitching role with a team he's had success with in the past, as he attempts to get back to Triple-A.
The transition from starter to reliever and back to starter is far from easy for any pitcher, no matter the level, given the vastly different approaches to the roles. For Waddell, he's found a comfort level in starting once again in a Curve uniform.
"He's comfortable. He's been a starter his whole life, tried to move him to the bullpen and it doesn't work out," Altoona pitching coach Joel Hanrahan said. "Comes back to start ... he's comfortable here and comfortable starting. He can get into more of a routine here. Some guys are routine oriented and others just go out there and wing it. For him, I think he likes the comfort of having a routine."
Pitchers are creatures of habit and defined by their routines — whether pre-game, during the game or postgame. The University of Virginia product is no different, but adjusting to different routines can be a difficult task.
"It's different. It's just two different facets of pitching. I think the routines are different, how you get ready for a game, the stuff you do off the field for a game. There's a lot of different things that go into that and I think it's something that's a learning experience," said the Pirates' 2015 fifth-round pick.
That learning experience has helped Waddell, 25, enjoy a rejuvenated confidence in his ability to pitch. Pitching with conviction and confidence is an art and Waddell's execution on his changeup is now playing the best of his career in a Curve uniform.
"The changeup for him, right now, is the best I've ever seen it, and I've seen it for three years now," Altoona manager Michael Ryan said. "... He's using that as a weapon. He's throwing it in any count he wants because he has the confidence in it. Looking at the video, he wasn't doing that in Triple-A. Next time he goes back, I think that's going to be a big weapon for him."
In two stints in Triple-A Indianapolis, Waddell has had more downs than ups, amassing a 6-10 record and 5.40 ERA. Before being sent to Altoona this season, Waddell had an ERA of 8.70 with opponents hitting .297 off him.
"You're facing really good hitters there. Guys that have a lot experience," Waddell said. "Most of the guys there have had at least a little bit of time in the big leagues. They're just more experienced.
"They've been through it, seen a lot of pitches, had a lot of at-bats, so being able to do that and seeing how I faced them, the things that I saw there ... learning from that and ... bring here and use that to be successful."
Along with Waddell's new-found confidence, hitting his spots and following the game plan have been big factors in his development as a starter.
"It comes down to executing pitches. That's the name of the game whether you do it here, whether you do it in Triple-A or do it in the big leagues," Waddell said. "If you execute pitches, it's going to be difficult for hitters and that's what I focused on — trying to be efficient, trying to get guys out early — and it's been successful here."
This is Waddell's third year with Altoona, which would be concerning except that it's just his fourth professional season, and he's using these experiences and opportunities to grow and mold his game.
"Got older, a little bit more experience and a feel for pitching," Waddell said. "I think, as you go, you're going to learn something every time you're out there, what you can see and just knowing you can trust that and your stuff. I think that's the biggest thing."
Waddell has the potential to be a big league starter in the future — some prospect sites and magazines once projected his MLB debut in 2019. But barring a slew of injuries, the won't be happening, and for him to eventually get there his game has to continue to mature.
"By having confidence and using the changeup at any time," Ryan said. "I think he's being very aggressive with the fastball. He's opening it up to both sides of the plate. He's not nibbling. He's not getting behind in many counts and that's where he's evolving."
There are a lot of weapons at Waddell's disposal when he toes the rubber. And when they're working, Waddell has proven at times to be a dominant force on the mound.
"What I see from Waddell is he's got four, probably five pitches if you include the sinker, that are all quality pitches and he can throw any of them at any time and in any count," Hanrahan said. "That's kinda what we're doing right now, trying to find a way to maximize the weapons he has."
CURVE'S TOP HITTERS
Logan Hill, OF -- Hill was 8-for-21 (.380) over the course of the past week with six RBIs.
Jared Oliva, OF -- Oliva, 23, currently boasts a nine-game hit streak and has hit .432 over the course of that streak while scoring 11 runs and knocking in 10.
CURVE'S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Cody Bolton went six shutout innings Thursday night in Bowie, allowing one hit with one strikeout and a walk. Bolton is 0-1 with a 5.31 ERA since being promoted to Altoona.
Top reliever: Austin Coley threw two shutout innings Sunday against Bowie, scattering four hits. He's 2-2 with a 5.21 ERA on the season.
THE ROSTER MOVES/INJURIES
7/19: INF Jerrick Suiter placed on the seven-day injured list (groin strain). OF Bralin Jackson activated from the seven-day injured list.
The Curve went 2-5 over the past week beating Bowie Sunday and Trenton on Wednesday. Altoona currently sits at 16-13 for this half of the season, 6.5 games behind division-leading Bowie.
It's back to the friendly confines of PNG Field for the Curve this week as they host division foes Erie and Richmond.
ALTOONA FUN THING
The glove work up the middle for Altoona has been superb this year and Mitchell Tolman's play up the middle earlier this week shows that.
Glovely.@MitchellTolman robs Willy Yahn of a single up the middle to end the fifth.
Bowie 6, Curve 0 pic.twitter.com/sbRIOxNVra
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) July 21, 2019
To continue reading, log into your account: