Bristow Still Has the Potential

PEORIA – For Justin Bristow, the main objective this season is clear: get through the year healthy.

Coming back from surgery is never an easy task and can be frustrating. Peoria Chiefs starting pitcher Justin Bristow is finding out just how tough it can be.

Coming out of Mills Godwin High School in Richmond, Va., Bristow was one of the most coveted prospects by college coaches and major league scouts alike. He was a two-sport athlete in baseball and football. On the baseball field, he was a two-way player that compiled a prep record of 22-2 and was eventually drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round in 2005.

In addition to his pitching, Bristow was also rated by Baseball America as the third-best draft-eligible third base prospect in'05, and the Royals presumably wanted him to play there. He spurned professional ball and decided to play college ball for Auburn University.

"I found more success on the mound," Bristow said of deciding to play college ball instead of signing with the Royals.

Bristow entered college and after two years at Auburn transferred to East Carolina for a season that saw him win nine games and finish with a 3.07 ERA in 2008.

The Cubs then selected Bristow in the fifth-round of the draft and the right-hander would go on to made five appearances (three starts) for Class Low-A Boise.

Afterward, Bristow underwent off-season surgery to move a nerve in his right arm and since then, the operation has bothered his progress.

"Commanding my pitches and my breaking stuff has been a struggle," Bristow admitted. "It is what it is. You have to go out there and get better every time."

Chiefs pitching coach Rich Bombard understands that it takes time to come back from any operation and said he knows Bristow is not fully recovered yet. In 14 starts this season, Bristow has averaged just over four innings per outing.

"I don't think his arm is all the way back yet, but I've seen flashes where he has three pitches that can work in the major leagues," Bombard said. "Right now, I think the biggest thing with him is getting through this year healthy.

"I think it's frustrating for him right now. Just from watching, before this happened he had better command. I told him it's going to take time. But the stuff is definitely there."

Bristow entered the Chiefs' road series at West Michigan at 3-4 with three of his losses coming on the road. In 14 starts spanning 58.1 innings, he has a 4.47 ERA and 32 strikeouts and 20 walks. Opponents are batting .270 off Bristow.

But in spite of his struggles and setbacks, Chiefs manager Marty Pevey said he envisions Bristow breaking into the big leagues at some point in his career.

"He's an animal out there. He's hard-nosed," Pevey said. "He's an athlete. He'll go out and run for an hour the day after he pitches. He's low-key, laid-back, and plays the game the right way. He will pitch in the big leagues because of his competitive nature."

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