Resilient Heath Totten Fighting Back Again

VERO BEACH, Florida- The year 2004 was not one that Heath Totten would particularly like to treasure. But before you consign him to the list of "might-have-beens", please, remember that he has been to the edge and come back before.

This past season, Totten rose to the Triple level for the first time only to be battered to the tune of an 8-11, 5.46 record. Not pretty, admittedly. But there were some bright moments in there -- the fact that he led all Dodger system pitchers with 160 innings and that included a nine-inning complete game win, almost an anachroism when you examine matters.

But no, not what Totten had envisioned for himself, either. "The hardest part of it was that there were times when I had good stuff and they still hit me hard," he says. "It's a tough league on pitchers, for sure."

That it is, as all can attest. But know that Totten has the pitches to win and now knows what it takes to do so in the league. Just like what happened before.

He had begun his career after being drafted in the fifth round out of Lamar University in 2000 in solid fashion. An 8-2, 2.30 season with Yakima earned him honors as the organization's Rookie of the Year. However, some arm problems developed and trying to combat that after getting off the disabled list in 2001, he suffered an 0-8, 7.07 horror at Vero Beach.

"They booed me a lot," he says ruefully.

If they did get on his case that year, they learned to stand and cheer the next when he came back to Vero for a 9-5, 3.63 performance in 2002. Before the year was over, he was promoted to Jacksonville to go 3-3, 2.94.

In 2003 at Jacksonville, he had a losing record (11-12) but only because he was the designated hard-luck performer for whom the team failed to hit. The 11 victories ranked third in the league as -- get this -- he walked a mere 17 batters in 181.1 innings. He set the Southern League record for consecutive innings without issuing a pass-twice, first going 36.2, then later 39.1 innings without walking anybody. Clearly, he has marvelous control of his pitches.

Once again in 2004, his command was nigh perfect as he walked only 29 while striking out 93 in those 160 innings. It could be argued that this almost works to his detriment since batters dig in and take big cuts, knowing that the pitch will almost certainly be in the strike zone.

As pointed out, though, Totten has made the necessary adjustments in the past. Now, this 26-year-old righthander from Texas vows he's in excellent shape, has been throwing the ball well this spring and further asserts his experience of this past year will benefit him. For he knows what he has to do to succeed in the Pacific Coast League and that he has the equipment to do just that.