T.J. House had gotten comfortable, and that’s the worst thing a pitcher could do in the low minor leagues.
So comfortable, the left-hander didn’t take his offseason preparation seriously heading into last year at high Class-A Kinston — and the results showed.
“Coming into the Carolina League my second year I kind of struggled right out of the gate,” House said. “I was going back to Kinston, where I felt comfortable and had gotten content. I kind of thought, ‘The last two years I’ve had success, there’s no reason to work any harder.’ ”
It didn’t take House long to realize that was far from the case. But once he’d fallen behind, it was tough to get back on track, going 6-12 with a 5.19 ERA in 25 games (24 starts). He recorded career highs in home runs given up (12), walks (66) and earned runs (75).
“I had problems not being physically fit and struggled to re-create my mechanics properly, so I was struggling from a lot of standpoints,” he said. “It was a rough year for me, but it taught me a valuable lesson: You never take anything for granted and you always bust your tail throughout the offseason.”
That’s what the 22-year-old did this past season, and this time the results were much more desired.
Although he began his third consecutive season at high-A, this time it lasted a little less than a month. House earned a promotion to Double-A Sunday, after going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts with the Carolina Mudcats.
In 25 innings, he struck out 26 batters and issued six walks prior to the promotion.
House, acquired by the Indians in the 16th round of the 2008 draft out of Picayune High School in Picayune, Miss., is scheduled to make his debut for the Aeros at 7:05 tonight in the second game of this four-game series against the Binghamton Mets.
“Guys who don’t get off to blazing starts and don’t have the early success you hope they’ll have and fly through the system, more often than not, those guys end up not making it to the major leagues,” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. “But there are those stories, when guys turn it around and put themselves on a very solid path to the major leagues.”
Now that House knows what it takes, Atkins hopes its not too late to become one of those feel-good stories.
“T.J. House, over the last couple years, struggled to perform well,” Atkins said. “But we’ve seen the potential, we’ve seen the strides [he’s made] and we’ve seen the maturation. And now that we see the performance, it’s really [almost as] gratifying seeing a guy get to the major leagues.”
The first thing House had to do to take his offseason regime more seriously was to move out on his own.
After leaving the comfy confines of his parents’ home in New Orleans, House began watching what he ate and recommitted himself to working out.
“I’ve come to realize that everything you do in the offseason is almost more important than what you do during the season,” said House, who has a 20-33 minor-league record.
It wasn’t something he hadn’t heard before; it just took him awhile to see how true it was.
“Sometimes guys are listening to their coaches and trying to apply what they’re being taught, but the talent level’s just not there,” Atkins said. “But with T.J., the maturation from a physical, fundamental and mental side as a young high school player just wasn’t there yet. Now, he’d be a senior in college or just now graduating, so he’s performing at an appropriate level and off to a great start. To see that maturation and the commitment is very fulfilling for our player development staff.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.