Move to Bullpen Lands Haley on Big League Radar
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the young players on the 40-man roster that is a part of the Indians’ minor league system.
By Mike Brandyberry
Sometimes a major adjustment lends major results. For Indians’ relief pitcher, Trey Haley, it may have saved his professional career.
Haley was a second round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but continued control issues and a lack of progression through the Tribe’s minor league system forced him to the bullpen. However, once transitioning to the bullpen, Haley has thrived and regained his place as a top prospect in the Tribe’s system.
“I think it was just a combination of growing up as a player,” Haley said. “Out of high school I was working on so many things. I think that work has helped me get to where I am now.”
In 2012, the 22-year old, hard-throwing, right-hander had his best season as a professional. Haley split his season between High-A Carolina, where he had a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings, and Double-A Akron where he was 3-1, with a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings.
However, prior to 2012, Haley had suffered more struggle than success. After signing on Aug. 14, 2008, Haley made a brief appearance at Mahoning Valley before going 4-8, with a 5.56 ERA in 19 games and 16 starts at Low-A Lake County in 2009. In only 77.2 innings, Haley walked 65 batters and hit eight. His 2010 was much of the same, going 5-11, with a 5.97 ERA in 26 starts and 116 innings. Haley still walked 86 hitters, including twice having eight walk games. Despite his control issues and struggles, the pressure of being a high draft pick never affected his development.
“Honestly, not really,” Haley said. “I just go out and play the game as it should be played and just keep it fun.”
Haley began 2011 in the Captains starting rotation for the third straight season, but after two more bumpy starts, he was converted to a relief pitcher. Once transitioning to the bullpen, Haley has been able to stop pacing himself as a starting and mixing pitches and utilize his fastball much more. The 6-4, righty can top his fastball out near 100-mph when only having to throw an inning at a time.
The move to the bullpen paid off, going 1-1, with a 3.25 ERA in 29 games between Lake County, Kinston and the Arizona League. Haley walked only 25 hitters, while striking out 48 in 44.1 innings. He missed most of June and July with groin soreness, but still had his best season as a professional.
“I’ve always felt like I could do it,” Haley said. “It’s just the combination of me growing up as a player and just feeling comfortable on the mound and not having to think of mechanics.”
In 2012, Haley continued to grow as a relief pitcher beginning the season at High-A Carolina, going 0-0, with a save and 1.26 ERA in nine relief outings before being shutdown with continued right groin soreness on May 23. After having surgery for a sports hernia on June 5, Haley rehabbed in Arizona before returning to Carolina. He made three appearances before being promoted to Double-A Akron on August 4.
In nine appearances with the Aeros, Haley pitched 15.1 innings, striking out 23 hitters. Hitters had only a .189 batting average against Haley and he did not allow a run in his two appearances during the Eastern League playoffs. Haley’s efforts helped the Aeros win the Eastern League crown.
“It was definitely fun,” Haley said. “Any time you are in playoff baseball, it is definitely gives it more excitement. It was a great experience. We definitely had a good time. We were a close bunch of guys. We knew how to keep it fun every day.”
After the Double-A season ended Haley pitched in the Tribe’s Instructional League before pitching in the Arizona Fall League, an offseason league reserved for some of the top prospects in the minor leagues. In eight games, Haley had a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings pitched for the Scottsdale Scorpions and was selected to the AFL Rising Stars Game.
“It’s just getting to know yourself better as you get older and find out what works for you,” Haley said.
Haley was added to the Indians’ 40-man roster on Nov. 20, avoiding eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. With Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Matt Albers all secured spots on the Opening Day roster, Haley will compete with Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Frank Herrmann and others for what may be only one available right-handed spot. He will likely return to Double-A and progress to Triple-A Columbus with continued success. He enters the Tribe’s big league camp looking to build upon his success of 2012 and remain consistent and healthy.
“I feel like I just need to go out there and be consistent in what I do every day,” Haley said. “Whether it is getting my work done or throwing more strikes. I just need to keep working to be a complete pitcher.”
While Haley’s chances of making the Indians out of Goodyear are probably slim, his blazing fastball and transition to the bullpen probably makes his Major League debut imminent in 2013 when others struggle or suffer injury.