Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Him….
On June 1st, in his ninth Triple-A start, Chiefs left-hander Tommy Milone went 2-for-2 at the plate. Fitting perfection for a young man who has failed in pro baseball about as much as Charles Van Doren did at Twenty One.
Similarly to Mr. Van Doren, Milone succeeds through deception.
“The way I pitch comes from how I am as a person,” Milone told me recently in the first base dugout at Louisville Slugger Field. “I’m very quiet and not outspoken, so I think I take that on to the mound. I don’t throw hard, but I try to keep hitters off balance by throwing different pitches in different counts than maybe they’re expecting.”
Using that strategy, Milone won 12 games in both 2009 and 2010. In each of his last three stops in the Nationals’ farm chain prior to this season, the 24-year-old Milone posted ERAs no greater than 2.95. The only outlier in his pro career is a 4.57 ERA with his first team, the New York-Penn League’s Vermont Lake Monsters in 2008.
“I kind of struggled there because I throw it around the plate,” Milone remembered. “I want them to make contact. In Vermont, once guys get signed, they’re just free swingers. They made contact and it seemed like they’d always be getting hits.”
The only other period in Milone’s career which he could, when asked, deem anything close to a failure came early the following season. While in Advanced-A with the Potomac Nationals, Milone’s ERA over the first three months came to 4.04. Between July and September, his ERA stood at 1.94.
“In Potomac, I struggled early on and then it flipped around because I figured out how to pitch to pro hitters,” Milone said. It clicked then to not miss over the plate. If I’m going to miss, make it off low. If it needs to be high, make it way high.”
Milone, currently the International League’s leader in strikeouts with 76, didn’t think himself a lock to be a pitcher when he was in high school. Milone both pitched and played first base at Saugus High School in California.
“I felt like I was a good pitcher in high school, but I felt like my hitting was the thing that was going to carry me through my career and pitching would be back there just in case hitting didn’t work out,” Milone said. “I went into USC and they actually gave me a shot to hit. I didn’t do to well during the fall of my freshman year and they were just kind of like, ‘we’re just going to have you pitch.’”
With a 3.53 ERA, a 19-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .250 batting average, Milone has done both impeccably in his Triple-A premiere.
The Chiefs take on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees tonight at 7 o’clock at Alliance Bank Stadium. Nationals left-hander Tom Gorzelanny is scheduled to make a rehab start for the Chiefs.
You can catch the game starting at 6:45 on The Score 1260 or online at http://www.thescore1260.com. You can also watch for a nominal fee via milb.tv.
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