Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Can you picture a 6-foot-6, 230-pound baseball player crying like a baby?
It has not happened yet, but 26-year-old James Needy, a Miami Marlins prospect by way of Sioux City, admits if he reaches the major leagues “I’d probably bawl like a little girl” when he makes that first telephone call to his mother.
The prospects of Needy reaching the majors probably seemed a long way off when the San Diego native made three starts for the Explorers in May as he started his comeback from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2016. But 20 strikeouts in 15.1 American Association innings enticed the Marlins enough to purchase his contract, and five months later they sent him to the prospect-loaded Arizona Fall League where he recently was honored as Pitcher of the Week.
“I was able to just pound strikes down in the zone with fastballs and then go under the zone with breaking balls out of the same windows,” he told MLB.com after the league-high nine-strikeout performance in a mere four innings that earned him the award. “Just to come out here and perform like I did the other night, it’s just an honor.”
Needy gave further analysis when he said: “I didn’t throw that many innings this year because of coming out of Indy ball to start. I started in May, so getting those extra inning (in the fall league) is real good for me just to get through, and then facing the competition here and everything like that has been great for me.”
He had back to back starts of four-inning, two-hit scoreless efforts then came back to earth Tuesday with a victory in which he gave up three runs with three strikeouts in 4.2 innings to bring his AFL earned run average to 4.67 with 17 strikeouts and 17 hits in 17.1 innings.
He is not resting on his recent success, which includes a 3-3 record and 2.33 ERA for nine starts in Class A and Double-A after leaving Sioux City even though he lost another month with a sprained finger on his right (throwing) hand.
“I always have something to prove,” Needy told MLB.com. “Everyone does. The Marlins took a chance on me out of Indy ball coming back from that (elbow) injury and I respect them for it, but that doesn’t mean they owe me anything. I owe them everything. I just got to prove to myself and prove to any other team and the Marlins that I can pitch in the big leagues.”
Lincoln Hurler Gets a New Contract
Lindsey Caughel is another right-handed pitcher who can afford to look to the future after signing a new minor league contract with Seattle.
The 27-year-old Stetson product won six of nine decision with a 2.09 earned run average for 19 appearances (17 starts) at Lincoln in 2016, then produced a 10-10, 3.71 season at Double-A Arkansas for the Mariners last season.
Any number of current or former American Association players are getting an opportunity in a winter league, an option not always available to them until recent years. In early results, 2015 Pitcher of the Year Patrick Johnson (Sioux City) has a 3.96 ERA for six relief appearances in the Dominican Republic and outfielder Chris Roberson (Winnipeg) is hitting .300 with four homers and a dozen RBI for 23 games in Mexico.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.