Dougher Stands Tall for the Blue Jays

Right-hander Jimmy Dougher made lots of noise in his first year in pro ball. Dougher came into the Blue Jays family and gave a new meaning to ‘pitching with a downward plane', from the top of his 6'7'' frame

He was one of three pitchers selected by Toronto standing that tall, and the first by the organization since the 2003 draft, when Paul Warlow, also a right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the 46th round.

Selected in the 24th round of this year's Amateur Draft out of Cortland State College, Dougher defies batters with an over-the-top pitching motion and an arsenal that includes a fastball (89-91 mph), change-up (his out pitch), knuckle-curve (like one of his favorite pitcher, Mike Mussina) and slider. While he doesn't plan on adding an offering to his repertoire, he maintains that consistency and his change-up will help him climb the ladder of the Canadian franchise.

"The Blue Jays want me to throw my change-up a lot more to right-handed batters on the outside corner," said Dougher . "I can throw my four pitches for strikes and the results have been very good so far."

Good? That's an interesting way to put it. Judge for yourself with this pitching line and some interesting statistics:

• 52 innings pitched, 36 hits allowed, 9 earned runs, 1 home run, 10 walks, 51 strike outs, 1.56 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 12 appearances (11 games started).

• Average for left-handed batters: .176

• Average for right-handed batters: .197

• 52% of all batted balls were on the ground

• He only had one bad start this year, on July 20th, when he allowed five earned runs (only time he allowed more than two earned runs in a game) and five hits in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Remove that start and his ERA would stand at 0.68.

• Faced 43 batters before he allowed his first earned run on July 9th, in the first inning of a contest against the Indians affiliate.

• Average of 4.25 strike outs per outing, keeping in mind that Blue Jays starters don't go over five innings pitched in rookie league.

The laid back Liverpool, NY native is used to success, judging by the recent honors and stats he gathered in College. He earned first team Division III All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association last season, posting an 8-2 record and led the Division III pitchers nationally with a 0.63 ERA, allowing only 46 hits, 7 walks and fanning 74 in 86 inning. He was also named the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Pitcher of the Year in each of his final three seasons at Cortland.

When asked what were the biggest adjustments he had to make in professional baseball as compared to his time in College competition, he points out two extremely different aspects.

"Well, you have to wake up at seven in the morning and get to the field, that's one major difference. But pitching-wise, you quickly see that hitters are smarter up here and you can't get away with stuff that you did in college. It might be cliché, but you become a pitcher instead of a thrower."

While talent certainly plays a part in his successes so far in professional baseball, it is interesting to hear him talk about how he uses his imposing figure on the mound.

"It is a good feeling to see some hitters fear me when they come to the plate. I try to intimidate by showing them I'm not afraid to throw a fastball inside and also by making the batters back off with a curve ball that starts right at them, only to end up in the strike zone."

The Lansing Lugnuts (Low-A) were counting on that poise and presence to advance further in the playoffs when he was promoted after the Gulf Coast League season ended. However, after just a few pitches into the game, the criminology student felt that something wasn't right in his right elbow and he was pulled from the game immediately.

"They told me it was a very minor sprain in the elbow. Now, I feel very good. I just had to rest my arm a little. I even started the weight lifting program at the same time everybody did in the offseason."

Next season will bring more of the same for Dougher, with the Blue Jays planning on keeping him as a starter and Lansing likely to be his first destination of the season. While he only had the chance of pitching with the Lugnuts for a very short time, he immediately hit it off with the pitching coach for that team, Tom Signore. With the year he had in 2007, our parting words on Friday are to be taken seriously by hitters scheduled to face him next season.

"I'll just try and be the best I can next year."

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