Searle Has Come a Long Way to Find Success

DAYTONA BEACH — However under-developed the sport of baseball is in Australia, Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Ryan Searle has proven that talent can come from surprising places.

Searle, a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher for Advanced Class-A Daytona, currently holds a 1.88 ERA through 24 innings pitched. He has not allowed an earned run in his last three starts, a span of 16 innings.

In Sunday's 7-4 Daytona win against Clearwater, Searle pitched five innings, striking out five with just one run (unearned), two hits and one walk in a no-decision.

Since signing out of Brisbane, Australia in 2007, Searle has been a good fit. He said his transition has been nothing but an encouraging experience.

"It's been all positive, and I can take it home with me as well," said Searle. "I came over here when I was 17 and that was pretty nerve-wracking.

"It's really great to work with all these coaches who know things that we wouldn't even know the half of back home."

Where Searle is from, baseball is not exactly the top sport, or the most organized.

"They have other dominate sports in Australia, like cricket for example. I just don't think it is as developed as it is over here," said Cubs pitching coach Tom Pratt.

However under-developed the sport is in Australia, Searle has proven that talent can come from surprising places.

Searle made the jump past Class A Peoria from Class Low-A short-season Boise and has landed in Daytona just two years after he was signed.

"I had a good spring training, I worked really hard," said Searle. "I also had a good year last year at Boise, but it was definitely a surprise to completely skip Peoria all together."

Searle made five starts for Boise, pitching 26 1/3 innings and going 1-2 with a 1.03 ERA. After holding his opposition to a .189 average, he earned the promotion to Daytona at the start of 2009.

This season, Searle is 2-1 and has struck out 12 batters, which ties him for fourth on the team. He has allowed 15 hits in 24 innings for a .167 average against.

"He picks up things very easy and he is always asking questions," said Pratt. "He's really hard on himself, and he always works hard on the mound."

Searle's repertoire includes a sinking fastball, a curveball, and a recently added changeup.

"I am working on a changeup right now," said Searle. "It's a good pitch when I get it right, but it's only about 50/50 right now so it's a work in progress."

Sinkers are fastballs that have above-average movement, and this is the pitch that Searle banks on.

"I throw a sinker, so I'm a groundball pitcher," said Searle. "I focus mainly on getting ahead with a fastball, or my sinker, and getting the hitter to hit into a double play."

Searle admits one surprising thing, though, when it comes to his pitching.

"I try to avoid strikeouts," said Searle. "That may sound really weird, but I try not to give them anything over the plate.

"The pitches I throw sink anyway, so I generally try to throw them a pitch to get them to ground out. If I need a strikeout, I'll use my breaking ball."

Searle has worked with Pratt since his days at Boise, so the two are very well acquainted with one another and have built a good rapport.

"The last [three] times he's pitched, he's thrown very, very well," said Pratt. "He's got a good routine in between [starts] and he's just starting to nail down his fitness routine and it shows."

If there could be a downside, it may be his work against left-handed hitters as Searle has given up more walks and hits to lefties despite fewer at-bats.

It's a small sample size, but Searle admits it is something he's working on.

"Because I do get that sink on my fastball, I have to work on throwing inside to lefties," said Searle. "Sometimes I get a little bit scared because you feel as though you're going to hit them, so I'm just working on my confidence with that."

Pratt said Searle is on his way to being a more experienced and better rounded pitcher.

"He's young and he's very talented, and he's got a very lively arm," said Pratt. "He's just a pup. He keeps you on your toes."

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