CLEVELAND: T.J. House admitted feeling a little anxious, a little desperate to prove he belonged in the big leagues.
It’s a common feeling, a question for which only time can provide the true answer.
“I think everybody in this game has that small bit of doubt in the back of their minds,” House said. “You try to convince yourself that baseball is baseball wherever you go and at any level. But there’s nothing like baseball in the major leagues. Every pitch, every batter is a battle. There’s no easy outs in a lineup.”
Nearly a month into his first extended major league stint House, 24, is thrilled to know he can compete with the best.
A left-hander, House made his major league debut May 17 against the Oakland Athletics at Progressive Field.
He pitched a scoreless inning in relief and Indians manager Terry Francona said, “he showed a ton of poise.”
He was soon sent back to Triple-A Columbus, but was recalled when Zach McAllister went on the disabled list with a lower back strain a few days later.
With McAllister sidelined, House has taken advantage of his opportunity.
“He’s pitched himself into our plans,” Francona said.
In his three starts filling in for McAllister, House has proven to be a quick study.
His first career start was a rocky one, allowing five earned runs on 11 hits in six innings at the Baltimore Orioles.
“He scattered some pitches, which is to be expected for a kid’s first time in the big leagues,” Francona said. “He didn’t pitch [Nick] Markakis in and [Markakis] beat him away all day. He pitched [Chris] Davis in and [Davis] beat him twice.”
The problem wasn’t that House, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder the Indians drafted in the 16th round in 2008, wasn’t throwing strikes — he was throwing too many of them.
“He pounded the zone and threw a ton of strikes that game,” Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “I just think he got hit around a little because he wasn’t used to having to use purposeful balls. He was just pounding the zone, pounding the zone, pounding the zone instead of OK, pound the zone, but now make a pitch to get them off the next pitch.”
House heeded Callaway’s advice and turned around the results in his next outing. House limited the Chicago White Sox to a run on five hits and struck out eight in 6⅓ innings.
“He started to get more comfortable and now he’s throwing the way he can throw — he’s sinking the ball,” Francona said. “He’s getting outs on the ground. That’s T.J. at his best.”
In his third start, House held the explosive Boston Red Sox to two runs on six hits in 5⅔ innings. In that game, he battled veteran slugger David Ortiz in an 11-pitch at-bat before getting Ortiz to fly out to center to end a threat in the fifth.
“It was impressive,” Callaway said. “[House] reached back in that at-bat a couple times and he challenged [Ortiz]. He looked like a veteran pitcher who says, ‘Hey, I’m going to make you beat me. The rookie thing to do would have been to just give in and walk him and then you’re in trouble. But he didn’t do that, he reached back, challenged the guy and trusted his stuff.”
In each of his past two games, he’s left the mound in line to earn a win, only to see the bullpen let in an inherited run that has resulted in a no-decision for House.
“It seems like the more [jams he gets into], the more he attacks the zone,” Francona said. “And he’s not just throwing it down the middle, he has some movement on it.”
However, McAllister is close to being healthy, and is scheduled to make a final rehab start for Triple-A Columbus today. If all goes well in the outing, McAllister is expected to join the big-league club in Boston on Thursday for the last leg of the Tribe’s current 10-game road trip.
The Indians will need to make a roster move to activate McAllister, meaning his start against the host Texas Rangers will likely be House’s last for the time being.
“It’s the business of the game, just the way it works,” House said. “Of course I want to stay, I want to stay the rest of the season. But at least this time I was able to open some eyes, really show what I can do and be in a much more confident position the next time I come back.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.