June 19, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – The bad news is that Dan Straily won’t be pitching in the Class AA Texas League All-Star Game next week.
The good news is that Dan Straily won’t be pitching in the Class AA Texas League All-Star Game next week.
If that seems backwards, it’s not, because Straily’s baseball career has moved forward in a big way.
The former Marshall right-hander, who leads all of pro baseball in strikeouts in 2012, was promoted by Oakland from the Midland RockHounds to Sacramento in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. And although he fanned 108 over 85 1/3 innings in 14 Double A starts, the Oregon native didn’t expect what happened.
“It was absolutely stunning,” Straily said Monday by phone from Sacramento, where the day before he joined his new club at 14,000-seat Raley Stadium on one hour of sleep. “I figured I’d be in Double A all season, like I was in high (Class) A last year for a full season, and low A for a full season in 2010.
“It’s an honor … I’m the second youngest guy (age 23) on this club.”
Straily was 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 23 walks at Midland, and in his last start Friday night he went 6 2/3 perfect innings to start an eight-inning stint, allowing one hit (homer) and struck out nine, but got no decision.
“Saturday night it was my turn to chart (pitches). I came into the clubhouse after the game, turned in my charts, and left and went to get something eat,” Straily said. “I went home, turned on the TV and started watching a movie.
“It’s about midnight and my phone rings. I almost didn’t answer it. I didn’t recognize the number (calling), but I figured I’d see who it was. It was my manager (Steve Scarsone). He asked me if I could come back to the ballpark. I kind of wondered why, and then he finally said, ‘You’re going up to Triple A, congratulations.’
“I said, ‘Are you serious?’ It sounded like him, but then it didn’t, and clubhouse pranks, we’re not above that sort of thing, you know. He said he was serious. It’s 11:55 on a Saturday night and you find out you’re going up? I’m just glad I answered the phone.
“I headed for the ballpark and got a call from our trainer with my flight information. I got my gear, went back home, called my fiancee (in Oregon). I finally fell asleep about 4 a.m. and had to be at the airport at 5. All day Sunday during the game, I was just going on adrenalin.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Straily was scheduled for a bullpen session today (Tuesday), and was told he’ll be in the River Cats’ five-man starting rotation. His first expected start is Thursday night, against the Fresno Grizzlies, San Francisco’s top farm club.
What the Grizzlies will see from the former Herd starter – he played two seasons for Marshall after transferring from Western Oregon – is a mix of pitches that has served him well, including one he picked up one day while throwing in the outfield during one of his last games in an MU uniform.
Asked what has changed about his pitching since he left Marshall as the A’s 24th-round pick in the June 2009 MLB Draft, Straily said, “It’s not so much that everything has changed from Marshall, it’s that everything has evolved.”
His fastball has some hop and is generally 92-94 mph, although he’s reached 97 this season, and “I’ve never thrown a ball that hard in my life,” he said. Straily is working on a changeup that he said “was a real struggle for me,” but one that improves each time he works on it in bullpen sessions.
“It’s the same one, the same grip I learned one day at Marshall,” said Straily, who was 9-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 154 innings in two Herd seasons. “It’s really good for me, my put-away pitch, I throw it in the low tomid-80s (mph).
“I got it from (former MU teammate) Shane Farrell. One day we were getting ready to play at Radford and we’re tossing in the outfield and he showed me the grip he used on the slider. A lot has changed, but I still use that grip, and when I need a strike, I go get that pitch.
“Otherwise, my mechanics have been simplified. I throw a little more over the top than I did in college. I’m stronger and in better condition, but I’m still within five pounds of what I was when I was drafted, after I’d lost about 40 pounds by sophomore year at Marshall.”
Straily, one of 12 players from Marshall Coach Jeff Waggoner’s program in the minors this season, admitted it’s tough not to think about taking the next step, to the Athletics, and becoming the Herd’s first Major Leaguer since pitcher Rick Reed ended a 15-year career in 2003.
“It’s definitely hard not to think about that,” Straily said. “(On Sunday), I was sitting in the dugout talking with our pitching coach (Scott Emerson) and the other team (Tacoma) is on the field and he says, ‘Six guys out there right now have played in the Majors.’ Then the inning ends and we go on the field and he counts and says, ‘and we have six on the field who have been up there.’
“It definitely makes you realize how close you are. One day you’re in Midland and the next day California. Triple A is different. The biggest jump might be from high A to Double A, but you have more experienced guys here, guys who have been drafted anywhere from 2004 to 2010, mostly.
“You see the amount of patience is different. I watched my first game and it had 19 walks. There’s a lot more eye for the strike zone, and I think it’s tougher to get a called strike. I’ve definitely noticed a difference already.”
Straily said what he needs most now – besides good stuff – is that Triple A kind of patience. He’s with an organization that does more than dabble in youth. The economics-challenged Athletics embrace it. He understands a trip from Sacramento to Oakland depends on what route you take.
“I never expected to be here,” the former Herd pitcher said. “The next step is a huge one. I’m going to work hard and maybe I’ll get to realize my dream. That’s all you can do.”