All around the world: Bees pitcher Anthony Lerew hopes for one more shot at the big leagues
“Obviously I didn’t start too hot, but I think it’s just because being off for so long and playing in independent ball — it’s just a jump to get into it,” he said. “I feel like I’m coming around.”
Not only does the game change from independent ball to Triple-A, much has changed in baseball since 2010, when Lerew last pitched in the majors. Every team now uses spray charts and advanced sabermetrics religiously. Teams adjust pitching and defense to accommodate the numbers more than ever before.
Baseball is no longer just a game, it’s a science.
Salt Lake pitching coach Erik Bennett said that part can be the most difficult for players adjusting from independent baseball to Triple-A.
“They have to get back in the routines of the charts, the radar chart, the game chart, the spray chart — all the stuff they don’t keep in the independent leagues,” Bennett said. “It’s just getting back in the routine of all that kind of stuff, but (Lerew) has done it before, so he should jump back in without a problem.”
Opposing batters are tougher to get out in Triple-A, too.
“Hitters make more adjustments here,” Lerew said. “If he looks bad inside, you can probably stay inside and he won’t make an adjustment (in independent ball). Where here, you’re going to have to mix it up.”
Bennett said Lerew has worked best with his fastball and changeup. He said he plans on working with Lerew on improving his breaking ball in the next few outings Lerew makes.
Despite a rough start with the Bees, the righty is showing positive signs. Though he allowed five runs in 5-1/3 innings in a loss at Albuquerque on Tuesday, he retired 13 straight batters at one point.
Lerew credits Bennett for helping expand his game, especially because there’s more learning in the American game than overseas.
“It’s actually refreshing to be around people I can understand,” Lerew said. “(Bennett) has been helping me. I’m an older guy, but I’m still receptive to what I can improve on because I can always get better. There’s some stuff from being overseas for three years that I’ve been pretty much coaching myself. There’s stuff I need refined and he’s helping me be refined.”
Utah’s dry air and high altitude has also been a difficult adjustment.
But one adjustment Lerew has enjoyed has been playing baseball away from his home state, which has allowed him to focus on his game. His family joined him out in Utah as well.
“There’s a lot less distractions now,” he said. “When I was at home, 20 minutes away, a friend calls you up and you have to do this, this or that. Now I’m away and it’s just my family and me and I can concentrate on what I have to do.”
Wherever Lerew goes next from Salt Lake is a mystery. If he gets the call to the big leagues ever again, it would just be another tale in the pitcher’s tome.
“Just to get back would be a feat in itself,” he said. “I made it up with the Braves. Then I had Tommy John surgery. Then I made it back with Kansas City and then I had the opportunity to go overseas and went there, so I’ve been around the world.”
Regardless of what happens, Lerew is just happy to have the chance to crack the majors one last time.
“It’s definitely good to be back here and try to work my way back up,” he said. “I’m just glad I have the opportunity to come and try and do it.”
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