Pratt Gains Maturity

For Jordan Pratt, the 2005 season was like awakening from a very long and very bad dream. Make that a nightmare for, in effect, that's what Pratt's first two seasons as a professional pretty much were. Maybe they thought that assigning him to the Pioneer League right out of high school after he signed in 2003 was doing him a favor. After all, he was from Oregon so the family could get to see him pitch in a relatively near-by league. If they did, though, what they saw wasn't a pleasant sight.

"It was matter of readiness," Pratt allows now. "I'd go out, be good for awhile, then start getting behind batters and bad things happed." He simply didn't trust that the stuff that made him a fifth-round choice was good enough in a league with far more experienced players. The result was an 0-9, 7.69 season. Like I said, not a pretty sight.

So, he was sent back to Ogden in 2004 but he arrived carrying the baggage of those sad experiences. "The ball really travels in that league and I was too conscious of it," he remembers. So, once again, he'd nibble, get behind and be forced to try harder for a strike. This time, it cost him 10 home runs and a not all that much better 2-6, 9.50 season.

This spring, some Dodger brass even toyed with the notion of releasing him. After all, he simply hadn't produced. Others argued that the basic ingredients of a good pitcher still existed in him. What he needed more than anything else was a large shot of confidence.

The first step was using him in relief instead of starting. Back he went to Ogden, though, but this time he came out of the bullpen armed with more maturity. The fact that he had sharpened all his pitches helped, too.

Now, he had far more impressive performances. What's more, nobody, that's right, nobody hit a home run off him. He was 2-2, 3.25 with 35 strikeouts (and only 14 walks) in 28 innings. So, when Columbus needed pitching help, Pratt was the one chosen.

His first game, though, was a flashback. "I was pumped, overthrew, got behind and gave up a three-run homer." But, now, he was mature enough to cope. The rest of the year, he didn't yield another long bomb, turning in some strong outings. Oh, his record was an unimpressive 0-1, 6.60. Don't let that fool you for he held batters to a .213 average.

Now, his fast ball is clocked at 97. His other pitches are coming along so now he takes command in a game. Whether that will be in the rotation or the pen has yet to be determined. "I Like to consider myself a starting pitcher but there's something about coming in with the bases loaded, the score tied and going right after a hitter. You get pumped doing that."

He's in the Instructional League and that very fact indicates how far he's come for this is where they work with the most promising. He's only 20 and now he sees he has a future in this game. He's awake, throwing well and those bad nights are hopefully only an unpleasant memory.