McAllister Staying Ready and Waiting For Another Call
By Evan Matsumoto
There are things in baseball that a player cannot control; the distance to dead center, a Tim Wakefield knuckleball, and how long it will be until the big leagues call.
For Zach McAllister, he’s waiting for the call that keeps him in the big leagues for good.
“The mental side of the game is one of the biggest things that I think separates people from being at this level and being a mainstay at the big-league level,” McAllister said. “It’s being able to handle going up and down and not necessarily knowing where you’re going to be at everyday because it could change right away.”
The 2012 season has seen McAllister with the Tribe four times already, filling in for Josh Tomlin as a sort of sixth man in a five-man rotation.
He boasts a 3.96 ERA with Cleveland—down just over two runs in the same number of games as last year—given up 14 runs on 25 hits and struck out 22 batters. With one win, one loss and two no decisions recorded, McAllister hasn’t wasted his call.
McAllister heard his name called in the third round of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft as the 104th overall pick by the New York Yankees. His career in baseball, however, began far from the Gulf Coast League.
McAllister was drafted out of Illinois Valley Central High School in Chillicothe, Illinois, where he went 12-1 with a 1.04 ERA and 116 strikeouts—the same draft yielded Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, and the Tribe’s own Chris Perez.
The six-foot-six right-hander spent his first four years as a professional baseball player in the New York farm system before being shipped to Columbus in August 2010 in a trade that wielded Cleveland outfielder Austin Kearns.
“I signed in 2006 out of high school with the Yankees, and played every level except for the big leagues there. I actually got traded (to Columbus) when we were playing against Columbus so I just switched locker rooms,” McAllister said.
McAllister shined in New York, being ranked the sixth best prospect in the New York organization by Baseball America entering the 2009 season and then the fifth best prospect for the same organization at the start of 2010.
In those first four years, McAllister amassed a record of 30-22 with 314 strikeouts. In 2010 he split time between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the Clippers going 9-12 with a 5.29ERA and recorded 99 strikeouts.
The Majors didn’t call until July 7, 2011.
McAllister started that day at Progressive Field against the Toronto Blue Jays. He gave up three runs on five hits and threw 96 pitches through four innings of work. The Tribe won the game 5-4, but McAllister did not factor into the win.
Two more starts in Cleveland rounded out the year for the Illinois native; he pitched 10.1 innings, gave up 12 hits, five earned runs and recorded nine strikeouts over those two outings.
“My last two I was really happy with. It definitely gave me good confidence to carry into this year and I’m just trying to carry that forward,” McAllister said.
Despite only starting four games with Cleveland in 2011—with an 0-1 record and 6.11 ERA—McAllister was a vital part of the Clippers back-to-back Triple-A National Championships in 2010 and 2011; McAllister secured home-team status in the 2011 National Championship game after he pitched two scoreless innings in that year’s Triple-A All-Star game.
The call from the big leagues is something he can’t control, however.
“I’m going to control what I can, and that’s going out and pitching every fifth day or whenever I get the ball and trying to make the most of my opportunities,” McAllister said. “You try to embrace it and go out there and pitch and make it challenging for them to keep you down in the minor leagues.”
Photo: Dave Zapotosky