Known more for his pitching coming out of Irvington (Cal.) High as a senior when he went 8-0 with a 1.54 ERA and 87 strikeouts in just 59 innings on his way to being named East Bay Player of the Year, Tella was headed to Fresno State to play his college baseball but instead wound up at Ohlone College playing in the outfield instead.
Since that time he has strictly been an offensive player. After being named the 2011 California Junior College Player of the Year, Tella signed with Auburn and has been the everyday center fielder since he arrived on campus.
Tuesday night it was time to throw again and Tella looked right at home. Facing two batters, Tella walked the first after running it to a full count before getting the second on a groundout. Throwing 86-88 MPH and showing a good breaking ball as well, Tella said it was good to knock off the rust because this weekend it could be for real.
Facing a Kentucky offense that is loaded with left-handed hitters and having just starter Michael O'Neal and Tuesday night starter Daniel Koger to match up with them, Tella said his time may come again in SEC play sometime this weekend.
"I think I'm going to just be a lefty set-up guy," Tella said. "I'll just have to get that job done. We only have Koger and Mike, and Mike is starting. If Koger is used who else is going to be used? (Sunny) Golloway sat me down and I told him that I was serious and I had been a pitcher coming out of high school. I haven't touched the mound or toed the rubber in a while. It was fun."
With Tella's ability to come in and face left-handers it could open up some interesting situations for the Tigers the rest of the 2014 season. Able to bring him in from center field and then run him back out following his time on the mound, Golloway said it's time to try anything they can to get the job done and he believes getting back on the mound could bring out a different side of Tella.
"He's a different guy," Golloway said. "His bulldog mentality on the mound is something I have never seen. I told him ‘you are so serious' and he told me ‘Coach, all I ever did was pitch until four years ago'. I told him he needs to play the game the way he pitches. That intensity, that bulldog, I love it. I wish we had done it a long time ago.
"Coach Fox (Scott Foxhall) told me his arm was always sore last year and he couldn't do it. Now he wants to do it. He loves the way I'm going to use him because it's old-school. You heard some of the fans yelling back for him when he went back to center field. That's pretty cool to be able to pitch and hit and go back to center field. It could be a big lift for us, especially when we need to get that left-hander out when we need to."
Auburn (26-23, 9-15) will hit the road this weekend to face Kentucky (28-19, 10-14) in a must-win series for both teams if they hope to keep their NCAA hopes alive. The Wildcats are led by National Player of the Year candidate A.J. Reed. The powerful left-hander is hitting .358 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI this season and is also 8-2 on the mound with a 2.20 ERA.