If you’ve been following Blue Jays from Away, you’ll have read our interview with Lansing Lugnuts relief pitcher Tucker Donahue here. If you go back even further, you’ll remember that Zach Mortimer and I discussed Tucker in our interview here.
I had a chance to catch up with Tucker in Lansing this past weekend. While I was there, he got into two games. On the Friday night, he came into the game in the top of the eighth with an 8-2 lead. While he wasn’t getting any help from the home plate umpire (there were some close calls that went against him), it looked like he was having a lot of trouble locating his pitches, mostly staying up in the zone with a fastball that looked pretty straight despite the 92-95 mph range. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were making him pay for the bad location: they ended up scoring 5 runs (4 earned) on five hits and a walk. That appearance bloated Tucker’s ERA to 9.00 on the season.
I saw him pitch again on Sunday, and this time, the results were much better. His velocity was about the same, but it appeared that there was much more movement on his fastball. Tucker threw 2 1/3 innings, and only gave up 1 hit and struck out 2.
I talked to Tucker after the game and he was telling me (along with Slavko Bekovic, one of the play-by-play announcers in Lansing) about what he has been working on with pitching coach Vince Horseman. He talked about shortening his stride to the plate and hopefully we’ll see continued good outings from Tucker.
One of the best things that I got from my trip to Lansing was being able to feel the incredible positive attitude that all the players there have. Even when they aren’t seeing the best results on the field, they understand that it’s a learning process and that the successes will come with enough hard work. Tucker is making those adjustments and it takes time to become part of the muscle memory. Hopefully he’ll be able to internalize those changes to his mechanics and his successes will come more and more often.
UPDATE: Tucker pitched two innings on May 8 and gave up two runs. However, when you look at what actually happened, what it shows is a young pitcher making some mistakes and then pulling things together.
- Pitching Change: Tucker Donahue replaces Justin Jackson.
- Junior Arias triples (2) on a fly ball to center fielder Dalton Pompey.
- Tanner Rahier homers (2) on a fly ball to left field. Junior Arias scores.
- Wagner Gomez singles on a line drive to center fielder Dalton Pompey.
- Beau Amaral flies out to center fielder Dalton Pompey.
- Offensive Substitution: Pinch-hitter Brent Peterson replaces Zach Vincej.
- Brent Peterson strikes out swinging.
- Robert Ramirez grounds out, second baseman Christian Lopes to first baseman Kellen Sweeney.
- Jeff Gelalich called out on strikes.
- Jesse Winker flies out to right fielder Carlos Ramirez.
- Nick O’Shea grounds out, pitcher Tucker Donahue to first baseman Kellen Sweeney.
So what happened here? Tucker probably made a few bad pitches to the first three batters he faced, giving up a triple, home run and single. Then he got the next six batters out, getting two strikeouts and probably inducing at least one batter get make weak contact.
After we responded to what may have been a hacked tweet, Tucker actually sent us this one:
@JaysFromAway thanks! Trial and error out there. Ill be there in the end, don’t worry.
So, like many players in the minor leagues, Tucker is a work in progress. For every setback there are flashes of tremendous potential.