The Fight in Stephen Grasley

APPLETON, Wisc. - As the old saying goes, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. And while those words of wisdom are very cliché and often overused, there could not be a more appropriate tagline for Wisconsin Timber Rattlers right-hander Steve Grasley.

In his case, the dog in the fight stands 6-feet tall and weighs 190 pounds, with an immense amount of heart. Grasley will not intimidate anyone, nor will he allow himself to be intimidated by another on the field of play. He is a very aggressive pitcher who will not back down from any soul that steps up the bat..

"He is out there pitching and he is not backing down," said Rattlers pitching coach Brad Holman. "And if you watch the way he goes about his business you'd think he's 6-foot-10 and about 300 pounds - and that's the way he pitches and that's what you have to credit his success to."

One of Grasley's most impressive attributes is his control. He has been a bright spot on a staff that has often looked very ordinary. The former Creighton Blue Jay is very aggressive and knows how to throw strikes. As of July 28, he is a perfect 7-0 with a 3.31 ERA with 52 strikeouts and just 30 walks, in 70.2 innings of work.

"(Grasley's) always been able to throw strikes," said catcher Rob Johnson, who caught Grasley last season in Peoria. "He doesn't have ‘blow you away stuff,' but he throws every one of his pitches for a strike."

Success was not instantaneous for the right-hander this season. Grasley started the year in a crowded bullpen with first-half studs Chad Fillinger, Craig James and Cibney Bello logging the bulk of the innings. Having to deal with control issues of his own, Grasley often found himself on the outside looking in on a relief corps lined with talent. But none of that stopped Grasley, who took the time to observe how other pitchers were having success.

"I've watched Craig James pitch in this league and I saw how he went and loaded up the zone," said Grasley. "I just saw some of the guys that were having success and they were going right at guys and trying to fill up the zone even if it was right down the middle."

Aside from studying the game, Grasley worked hard to fine tune his mechanics. And credits much of his success to the consistent work with pitching coach Brad Holman.

"I think my mechanics are just clicking better now," said Grasley. "Me and Brad (Holman) were working on some changes in my delivery and I'm just starting to become a little more comfortable with that."

For Grasley, pitching is more of a craft than an ability. His fastball does not make hitters fear the heat, so he must focus on his pitch location and break on the ball.

"I have to concentrate on locating more than other people do, just because I'm not going to blow guys away with my fastball," said Grasley. "I have to really concentrate on hitters and pick up tendencies from them and really pay attention to situations in the game."

This 23 year old has proven many people wrong this season. His fierce competitive attitude and aggressive approach have taken care of the critics.

"He doesn't care who's up at the plate he wants to strike them out," said Johnson. "It's nice to see, you can see it in his eyes when he's on the mound."

Grasley has demonstrated that you don't have to be 6-foot-5, 220-pounder with a 99-mph fastball to excel as a pitcher. You just need a little bit of tenacity. Just like a fighting dog, surviving for another day.

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