Armstrong Has a Simple 2013 Goal: Cleveland
By Laurel Wilder
Shawn Armstrong’s goal for the 2013 season is simple: To finish his climb through the Indians organization and make it to the majors.
For the 6-foot, 2-inch, 210 pound right-handed pitcher from Bridgeton, N.C., that goal does not seem far off.
The Indians drafted Armstrong in the 18th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of East Carolina University. Though he is relatively new to the Indians system, with 2012 being his first full season, Armstrong has risen through the minor ranks at an alarming speed.
Armstrong,22, started his 2012 season pitching for Low-A Lake County, but quickly moved up to pitch for High-A Carolina and ended his season playing for Double-A Akron. The only other player recently to move through the Tribe system at that speed is current Indians right-handed relief pitcher Cody Allen.
“I loved it,” Armstrong said of his rapid move through the organization. “Playing at every level, getting to meet all the different staff and players was a good experience for me, because it was a learning experience. I got to have three different pitching coaches’ perspectives of pitching…It kind of made my season just fly by. I looked up and it was September and we were playing for a championship in Trenton.”
The Aeros won that championship game in Trenton, N.J., becoming the 2012 Eastern League champions. Despite only playing with Akron for a partial season, Armstrong still was able to add to the team’s winning record. During the 17 games he appeared in with Akron, Armstrong had a 0.89 ERA. He also earned three saves, allowed 12 hits and pitched 22 strikeouts.
For his overall season, Armstrong posted equally as impressive numbers. In his 45 total appearances between Lake County, Carolina and Akron, he went 2-3 with four saves and had a 1.60 ERA. He pitched a total of 67.2 innings, allowing batters a total of only 44 hits (demonstrating a .191 AVG) and earning a grand total of 78 strikeouts. Armstrong also allowed no home runs throughout his entire 2012 season.
Armstrong’s season and pitching prowess earned him a spot playing in the Arizona Fall League in the 2012 post-season. While pitching for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Armstrong also was chosen to play in the league’s Rising Stars Game. Unfortunately, Armstrong had to back out because of shoulder soreness.
During his freshman year at East Carolina, Armstrong suffered a shoulder injury and missed his entire freshman season. He still was regaining his stamina and original abilities during the remainder of his college pitching career, and 2012 was his first season at full health since his college days. Thus, the reemergence of his shoulder soreness while in Arizona gave him a moment of pause.
“It’s like I told Mickey (Calloway, 2012 Tribe Minor League Pitching Coordinator and newly named Indians Major League Pitching Coach) when he was our pitching coordinator, I said, ‘Mickey, it’s not like I’m hurt, but I’m watching videos, and I can tell I’m tired,’” Armstrong said of his decision to sit out of the Rising Stars Game. “(Calloway) said, ‘Then let’s just shut it down. We completely understand.’ I’m glad they have that understanding of it.”
Armstrong did not let his inability to play in the Rising Stars Game create any bitterness in him, however. “It was good to be selected, but Trey Haley got to go out there and he got to pitch, and I’m proud of him for being able to do that,” he said.
As for his shoulder now, Armstrong said he’s doing “awesome,” and attributes the momentary discontent to the change of pace in his playing time. “I doubled my innings from college in one year. So I really think that’s all it is.”
As long as he can stay healthy and maintain his shoulder, Armstrong has the potential to do big things in 2013. He is content with his status as a relief pitcher.
“I love being out of the bullpen; it’s where I want to be,” Armstrong said. With the Indians working on revamping and reconstructing their bullpen, it might only be a matter of time before Armstrong is called up to assist them.
Last year, Allen was called up from the minors in July to pitch for the Indians. If Armstrong truly does keep following in Allen’s footsteps, then this season could be his big break.
Armstrong feels no pressure, however, despite his strong last season and even when being compared to Allen.
“I mean, it’s just baseball. I’ve been playing it since I was five, my dad gave me a baseball when I was two. There’s no pressure. If there were pressure, I don’t think I’d succeed very well,” Armstrong said.
This power to stay calm can also be linked to Armstrong’s ability to tune out distractions while on the mound. “When I get 60-feet, six-inches away, I just tunnel vision in; I don’t see a lot. I’m focused on the catcher’s mitt and the batter.”
His focus has obviously served him well thus far in his pitching career, and as he gets ready for 2013, Armstrong only hopes that it can take him where he has always dreamed of going.
“I want to go out in Spring Training and just pitch well, do everything I can to prove myself to them (the Indians organization),” Armstrong said. “Wherever they put me to start, I want to finish in the Big Leagues.”
Photo: Akron Aeros