Making a Strong Pitch

Former Clemson pitcher Tyler Lumsden is just one step away from reaching the big leagues. He currently takes the mound for Omaha, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in the Pacific Coast League.

Lumsden was rock-solid on the mound for the Tigers during his three seasons at Clemson and was a first-round pick (34th) of the Chicago White Sox in June 2004. From there, he progressed quickly up the ladder in the system before being traded to the Royals last summer.

Now in his first season in AAA, Lumsden is continuing to improve as he is closer than ever to the ultimate prize-a highly-coveted promotion to "the show".

CUTigers.com recently caught up with him by phone during a road trip and here's what "Lump" had to say.

How do you look back on your days at Clemson?
Lumsden: It was a great three years. I came out of high school, had a chance to be drafted but chose to stay at Clemson for three years, get an education and got to play for a great NCAA Division I program. To be surrounded by some of the top athletes and to also play against some of the nation's top athletes put me in the position to be where I am at now.

Talk about your experiences playing for Coach Leggett during that time.
Lumsden: He had a lot of impact both on and off the field. He got me together with the school and was real big on the education part. On the field, he was real big on time management and making sure his guys were in the weight room and taking care of things off the field to make sure that you could do the things you needed to do on the field to play at a top level. In three years, I think it turned out for the better and has put me where I'm at today.

When Florida took you in the fifth round of the June 2001 draft, did you ever consider signing with them or was it a draft-and-follow situation?
Lumsden: I wasn't real familiar with the draft. When you hear about the draft as a 17 or 18-year-old kid, it makes you excited. I was definitely considering it, but when it came down into it, I wasn't 100% into it (turning pro). And if my heart isn't 100% into doing something, then I'm not going to do it. My heart was into going to Clemson and I think I made the right decision. That made me a better player and person in three years. I think that is one of the best decisions that I have made in my career so far.

Former Clemson pitcher Tyler Lumsden is 5-5 this season playing for Omaha, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Here is pictured in 2006 with Kansas City's Double-A team, Wichita.
How did it feel to go in the first round of the June 2004 draft to Chicago?
Lumsden: The draft works funny things sometimes. Sometimes you go where you thought you would and where you thought you would and other times, you don't. I wasn't too concerned about where I went. The White Sox gave me a shot by drafting me pretty highly and once you get drafted, it's all about performance. You just have to go out there, do your job and everything else will take care of itself. I had a good year last year and was fortunate enough to be traded over to the Royals for a good player. I am still going from here and will hopefully take my career to another level.

What about the trade to Kansas City? Was getting traded to the Royals last summer a big shock?
Lumsden: It was definitely a good thing. They have made a lot of moves in the past year. A lot of their upper management guys have come over from the Braves. You look at what they did in Atlanta and you see young guys for them who have come up like Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann and have done well. You think that they are going with the same philosophy here. I was traded for a big-leaguer (Mike MacDougal), so that shows that they have some confidence in me. I just have to go out here, do my job and everything else will fall into place.

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make in playing professional baseball?
Lumsden: Well I had a small injury and had surgery in 2005. It was definitely a learning process and you learn quickly that you have to throw strikes and can't get behind batters. You can't leave certain stuff in the strike zone like I was able to do at Clemson. Sometimes, I would just out stuff some people but when you get to the next level, you learn how to pitch, mix pitches and speeds and really change things up.

You and ex-Duke guard J.J. Redick went to the same high school. How much do you talk to him?
Lumsden: We stay in touch about once or twice a week. We're on separate schedules. When he's in season, I'm out of season and so on. We try to call each other every week and check up on each other. During my offseason, I fly down (to Orlando) a couple of times and watch him play. Hopefully if I make it to the majors, he will be there for my first start. We keep up with each other, support each other and are there for each other when we go through tough times. He's not coming off his best season as a rookie, but I know he can play in the NBA. I told him that it is like being a minor league pitcher and that you have to pay your dues on the way up.

th this being your first year in AAA, what major differences have you noticed compared to pitching in Double-A?
Lumsden: Here, you are facing a lot of veteran guys. A lot of lineups this year have featured big-league guys that I grew up watching. You get a mix of them and of prospects and that's an adjustment. We play in the West and you have to keep the ball down in so many ballparks with the way it flies. These are experienced hitters here and if you're struggling, they know how to get to you. You have to battle and be tough. Some of the travel in this league is tough on your body and you have to take care of yourself. There are a lot of things that go into it. It's definitely a learning experience but I'm confident and know that I can pitch here. I have had some ups and downs here but think in the long run, that will make me a better pitcher.

Has the nickname "Lump" stuck with you over the years?
Lumsden: It was weird. My dad and uncle were both called that growing up. I happened to be at the baseball field one day in high school, someone threw it out there and it just stuck. I came to Clemson and the first day I was there, somebody heard it and it stuck. Then I moved on to pro ball and ran into a few guys who still called me that and it carried over. I don't mind it and it's easier than saying Lumsden sometimes. Saying "Lump" makes it a little easier for everybody.

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