Tiffany Not Pure Gold But He's Still Shining

The 2005 season was a roller-coaster ride for Chuck Tiffany, featuring some ups, some downs, some twists, some turns, some thrills and some chills. In the end, it was a generally satisfying trip, one that left him "Just where I'm supposed to be."

It certainly started in rare style. In the month of April he was absolutely the finest pitcher in the Florida State League. Then, came an operation to remove a suspicious mole from his back, one that involved cutting through some muscles. That left him with what he termed "normal soreness" but also put him behind for when he came back he wasn't getting the outs as he had earlier.

He regained his touch, however, only to hit a slump once more. At the end of the season, he had recaptured the necessary movement on his pitches and proved it with five hitless innings in each of his last two starts; the first at the end of the regular season and the second in a playoff game.

That didn't satisfy him, though. "Too many walks," he allows. True, he passed seven in one game, nine in the other. They couldn't solve his stuff, though so no one scored. The problem chiefly was with his curve which he couldn't throw for strikes until the third inning of each contest, then sporadically after that. The result in both cases was high pitch counts which didn't allow him to go deeper into the game.

Tiffany is not a power lefthander, relying mainly on movement and location to be effective. His fast ball sits in the 88-91 range and will probably never be a blaze of lightning. "I'd like to get more out of it but I'm not sure I ever will," he admits.

When he's throwing strikes, he's tough to hit, though as those last two games demonstrated He held opposing batters to a .226 average but even there he's not happy, saying "Too many of the hits they got led to runs." For there were times when he seemed to be sailing along, only to suffer through a bad inning.

He may not possess overpowering stuff but he gets people going for his pitch, and there can be a lot of swinging and missing going on. His nine-inning ratio of 10.36 strikeouts per game was the fifth-best in all the minors. His strikeout-walk totals were 134-43, not bad at all.

All this led to an 11-8 record with a 3.93 ERA for Vero Beach. What pleased him most was the team's performance, "We competed all the time. Even when we lost some players, others came in and helped out." There were a bit too many homers allowed, 17 in all. Now he's working in the Instructional League to "Get command of all my pitches."

His goal at the beginning of the season was to pitch well enough to be promoted to Jacksonville some time during the year. That didn't happen but he wasn't disappointed. After all, he's a 20-year-old who was ranked by managers as one of the top prospects in the league. Pretty good now and he has the dedication and growing knowledge to improve on that.

He should make that trip to Jacksonville in 2006, another step on the road that he vowed to take back when he was 12 and announced to a startled Tommy Lasorda in an airport encounter that "Some day I'm going to pitch for the Dodgers."

In all, his 2005 showing brought that day closer.

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