Tanner Tully is a 6’0”, 200 lb. left-handed starter out of Elkhart, Indiana, selected by Cleveland Indians in the 26th round. He was the last of six Ohio State Buckeyes taken in 2016.
Growing up in Indiana, he developed an appreciation for hunting, fishing, and sports. These made up a rotation across the seasons that kept him engaged.
“I played football and baseball during high school,” Tully said. “During the summers I played summer ball, up until football season. Eventually I got recruited to go to Ohio State.”
At Elkhart’s Central High in 2013, Tully earned Indiana’s Mr. Baseball award for his performance, joining a list that includes current Major Leaguers such as Lance Lynn, Adam Lind, Clayton Richard, and Tucker Barnhart, as well as a former member of the Lynchburg Hillcats, Bryan Bullington.
As a Buckeye, he played three years, choosing to forgo his senior season to sign with Cleveland. Eventually he expects to return and complete his degree in sports management and communications.
As the Buckeyes’ number one starter in 2016, he earned All-Big 10 honors, with an 8-3 record in 16 starts over 107 2/3 innings pitched. His 78 strikeouts to only 23 walks exemplify his ability to pitch to the strike zone and limit base runners.
Ohio State won the Big 10 championship by defeating Iowa in front of a raucous crowd in Omaha, Nebraska. It is one of Tully’s strongest memories of his time in college.
“It was a lot of fun, a good team and good chemistry,” said Tully about his championship comrades.
Iowa, the number eight seed, mowed down its competition, getting to the championship round undefeated to face off against Tully and the Buckeyes.
“The packed house against Iowa was incredible,” he said. “It’s a lot different, but you keep the same mindset, you go out there and do your job and get the work done.”
Tully did exactly that. He pitched three scoreless innings. Backed by the strong hitting of teammates and fellow draftees Ronnie Dawson, Troy Montgomery, and Jacob Bosiokovic, the team pulled out an 8-7 victory to win the Big Ten Championship and advance to the College World Series Regional in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Buckeyes would lose to the University of Louisville in the final game of the regional, ending their hopes of a trip to Omaha and the College World Series.
After being drafted and signing, the Indians organization sent Tully to short-season rookie ball at Mahoning Valley of the New York-Penn League. He added 13 games of professional baseball to his resume, seven of those with the starting assignment. In 46 innings for the Scrappers, he went 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA and 26 strikeouts to only nine walks – a very successful year by any measure.
“Everybody else is in the same shoes as you,” he said about making the move into professional baseball. “Most of the guys just got drafted. We’re all working on how to get started, and go from there.”
In college, he pitched by mixing up his fastball and curveball. With the Indians organization, he has added a changeup into the mix.
“I’ve been working on the changeup this year and getting it better, throwing it in the zone and getting better movement on it,” said Tully. “I had a little bit of a changeup before, but never really threw it that much.”
The Indians assigned Tully to Low-A Lake County to open the 2017 season. He pitched very effectively for the Captains over the first two-thirds of the season. In 77 innings, he had 76 strikeouts and only ten walks. He limited opposing hitters to a .243 average and had an ERA of 3.16, an effective start to his first full season. His success earned him a surprise promotion to AA-Akron for three starts.
“It was a big surprise,” Tully said about his move across Ohio and up two levels in the minor league development chain. “I’m thankful for that opportunity. It helped me out a lot, to see hitters and the strike zone.”
The game is a bit faster at Double-A, where players first encounter the 20-second pitch clock, but Tully adjusted smoothly, picking up a 1-1 record over 16 2/3 innings. He moved down to High-A Lynchburg following the promotion of Shane Bieber to Double-A Akron.
He has not been quite a successful when taking the mound for the Hillcats. With an 0-3 record, he has struck out only seven in 16 2/3 innings pitched.
His second outing in a Lynchburg uniform was his best. Facing the Down East Wood Ducks, he pitched eight innings while allowing only three runs on six hits. Unfortunately, a collection of four Down East hurlers limited the Hillcats to only two runs, and Tully was tagged with the loss.
Like many of the starting pitchers in Cleveland’s farm system, Tully is a control pitcher who is trying to limit base runners. He is most effective when not giving out free passes to the opposition. With Cleveland’s use of analytical systems, Tully is still adapting to the use of that type of data to inform how he develops his pitching style.
“It’s different,” he said, “but it can be very helpful. They are tools to use to see what you are doing, and what you can work on and grow.”
As the Hillcats work to maintain their five-game lead in the season’s second half, Tully will continue to work on his pitching with the hope that the team can win the Mills Cup Championship after being so close the past two seasons.
Once the season is complete, he will attend fall instructional league, and then head home for some family time, relaxing with his dad and going out to hunt and fish.
Photo: David Monseur/AIPPhoto