The promotion of the team's two best relievers, closer Craig James and setup man Chad Fillinger hasn't helped this problem. But help has come to the Rattlers in the form of Jon Lockwood, a left-handed reliever who had been on the fire in the Northwest League before Wednesday's promotion to Wisconsin.
In his short stint with the Everett Aqua Sox this season, Lockwood was lights out. In five appearances, Lockwood posted a perfect 2-0 record in 16 innings of scoreless work He also had 19 strikeouts and just one walk, a ratio sure to put a smile on face of every Rattlers fan.
And with numbers like it was only a matter of time before Lockwood would be catching a flight to the Midwest. Wednesday, it happened.
"I heard that a couple guys got hurt or they were doing some changes and there were pitchers needed," said Lockwood, a Canadian native. "I was informed that I was probably going to move up - it was just a matter of when - and it happened shortly after that was said."
As many of you may know, control is one of the biggest problems for the Rattlers pitching this season. And thankfully, control is something Lockwood has developed this season.
"I struggled all last year with control," said Lockwood. "It's something that every pitcher struggles with a bit. It's a tough thing and some guys are able to overcome it and I've done pretty well at that."
When asked about baseball in Canada, Lockwood described seeing both the highs and lows of the sport.
"When I was growing up as a kid the Blue Jays had just won the World Series back to back. So it was pretty big," said Lockwood. "I have a younger brother who got into baseball and it wasn't as big when he was playing five years later."
While there are some Major League stars from Canada such as Jason Bay and Larry Walker, the country is not a hot bed for baseball talent. But Lockwood believes there is much underdeveloped talent in the Great White North.
"There's some real talented ball players in Canada and a lot of times they don't get recognized and a lot of times their potential dissipates because they don't have the coaching," said Lockwood. "And we play baseball three, four months out of the year opposed to many Americans that play baseball nine or ten months out of the year."
But Lockwood fixed the climate problem by heading south and attending North Central Texas College, where he improved a great deal. And Jon will continue his progress in the Midwest League. He feels the biggest key to his success is being in control as a pitcher by getting ahead in the count early.
"Throwing strikes early, I'm pretty confident I can get anyone out," said the southpaw. "I like to make my pitches rather than pitch into the counts. I don't like having to throw a pitch I don't want to because the counts dictates that I need to throw that pitch."
Control is definitely an issue with Wisconsin. In fact, the Rattlers pitching staff has allowed the second most walks in the Midwest League. It is a problem the Mariners are cracking down on – Lockwood's promotion coincided with the release of starting pitcher Casey Abrams, who led the Midwest League with 63 walks.
The Rattlers were in desperate need of a control freak and they just might have found him in Jon Lockwood.
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