House Reinvents Self, but Knows Fate is Now Beyond Control
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 Laurel Wilder
In baseball, as with most sports, players know that there is a certain aspect of their success that is out of their control. They can perform to the best of their abilities, but at the end of the day, the decisions about when, or even if, they play lie in the hands of those in charge of their team.
However, T.J. House is not one to leave things to chance.
When the left-handed pitcher found himself struggling during the 2011 season, he did not simply wait it out and hope for improvement. He knew something had to change if he wanted the chance to pitch at a higher level. Instead of remaining complacent, he worked with pitching coach Mickey Callaway to change and improve his mechanics.
“One day we were in the bullpen and I kind of dropped my arm slot a little bit, and [Mickey] was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you throw another pitch like that,’” House said.
“I continued to throw my bullpen session, he didn’t really say much…[After practice] I went into his office, we looked at some old video of me in high school before I was signed and he was like, ‘Look – your arm slot is where we had moved it in the pen. Right now, you’re bent way up here at the top of your head. We’re gonna drop you down, we’re gonna try this, we’re gonna go back to the old way.’”
And that’s just what House did.
It wasn’t an overnight transformation – House said that he worked on the new pitching style for months. His improvement required more than just a change in his arm, though. House transformed himself physically in order to continue his road to stronger pitching.
“I went home, lost about 30 pounds,” the six-foot-one, now 205-pound House said. “I kinda reinvented myself back to the old me.”
When he came in to Spring Training in 2012, House found that his hard work paid off. “Things just kind of flowed the right way, everything was just working toward a better goal,” House said.
House pitched most of his 2012 season with the Double-A Akron Aeros. “We had four lefties and a knuckleballer,” House said of the Aeros rotation. “That was the most awesome rotation I have ever been in. It was very interesting just to talk to the diverse group we had there.”
“Teamwise, awesome,” House said of his Aeros teammates as a whole. “We had great chemistry, a mixture of older, veteran guys and then the range of young. I think the older guys led the younger guys. We all put in our part, we played collectively as a group, and you see what happened, we won the championship.”
Starting with the Aeros, House went 8-5 with a 3.98 ERA in his 23 starts. He posted 90 strikeouts, 44 walks, and seven homeruns with 114 total hits allowed. This brought House’s career stats to 28-38 (3.93) with 526 hits, 420 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP.
After the end of Aeros’ season, House went to pitch for the Arizona Fall League, where he continued his upward success. He went 3-1 (3.00) and started in six games. He also pitched a stunning five hitless innings during a game on Oct. 19.
“I knew I was going to have to step my game up. This is the best of the best of the minor leagues,” House said of his time in Arizona.
“I went out there and just said, you know what, just give them what they want, give them pitches over the plate, throw it to them, attack them, be aggressive. Show them that you’re there to play and not gonna back down, and I think that was the biggest key for me, going out there with that confidence, going out there with the mindset of, ‘I’m not gonna let you get me, I’m gonna prove that I can play at this level.’ That was the main goal for me.”
With his continuing solid performances, House certainly proved that he belonged in Arizona. Will it be enough, however, to prove that he belongs in the Tribe’s starting rotation?
“All I can do is go out there and play,” House said of his chances of appearing on the mound in an Indians jersey this season. With the Indians’ rotation being one of their biggest points of concern this season, there is a chance that House could be seeing some Major League action as the season moves on. He will likely begin the season at Triple-A Columbus.
Currently, the Indians have definite starters in returning veterans Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, and are looking to bring Brett Myers back into the rotation. As for the remaining spots, they remain open to younger members of the team such as newcomer Trevor Bauer, as well as Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, David Huff, Carlos Carrasco, and Scott Kazmir.
“We obviously have a lot of competition for the last spots in the rotation,” Chris Antonetti said in video of the Feb. 13 press conference.
If any of these starters fail to pitch to expectations, or fall into a slump once the season gets underway, House could be called up to fill the opening. But in the meantime, he knows he did all that he could; now, all he can do is continue to throw well. The rest is out of his control.
“That’s my main goal, to make it as hard as possible for them to do anything with me,” House said. “I want to be in the back of their minds. So I’m going to go out there and play and do my best, have fun, enjoy the experience that I’m about to get myself into, and I’m just going to let the rest take care of itself.”
“Those guys, they’ve got to make those tough decisions. I go out there and play a game and I enjoy it and I have fun. So I’m going to let Ross (Atkins, Indians Vice President of Player Development), and Chris (Antonetti, Indians General Manager), and Mark Shapiro make those tough decisions.”
Photo: Ken Carr/Lake County Sentinel