When Brant Rustich
was making his warm up tosses in the ninth inning against the Auburn Doubledays on August 10, one thing was apparent: Cyclones catcher Jefferies Tatford was going to have a sore catching hand when the night was over.
Armed with a 97 mph fastball and an electric slider, not many guys have the arm strength like that of the Mets' second round pick and UCLA
graduate. However, despite his intimidating look and stare on the mound, Rustich could not be happier to be in Brooklyn.
"I like it here. I've only been here a couple of days because of our last road trip, but so far, so good," said Rustich. "The atmosphere is so different from Kingsport, Tennessee. I've pitched here once already and it was just great. I love everything here, the atmosphere, the attitude in the clubhouse and my teammates. I'm really happy to be here."
Drawing comparisons to closers like Brad Lidge
and Jonathan Papelbon
, media and fans alike at Keyspan have been marveled at how hard the righty throws.
"I'd say I'm a power pitcher, but it's pretty obvious when you look at me. I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider as my out pitch," said Rustich.
"I've been throwing a lot harder lately and I came here to just work on my fastball and get as much command of it as possible because I think that's what a lot of the pitchers in the big leagues do. I'm going to be showing these hitters mostly fastballs, but I'm going to be using my slider more and trying to find a place for my changeup because I didn't get to use it in Kingsport as much as I would have liked."
Pitching in only five games for Kingsport this season, Rustich understands that chances are that he is going to be given more of any opportunity in Brooklyn. Admitting that he loves pitching in front of huge crowds when the chips are down, Rustich seems ready for the opportunity to pitch at Keyspan Park.
"Playing time is an executive decision, it's something I can't control," said Rustich, who had a 1-0 record and a 0.87 ERA for Kingsport. "They have a lot invested in me and I think that's why they're taking it easy with me. All I can do is go out there and do my best every time I get the ball. Right now they have me in the bullpen, but I don't care what they need me to do, close, setup or long relief, I'll do it and I'll do my best."
However with all the quality arms in the bullpen, Rustich knows that playing time may come even harder in Brooklyn then it did in Kingsport. Despite that, he feels he can learn a thing or two from the dominant Cyclones bullpen.
"It's fun just hanging out in the bullpen with these guys," said Rustich, who grew up a huge Nolan Ryan fan as a kid. "You watch these guys pitch and you can learn how they go about their business on the mound. It's a good learning experience. A lot of guys at this level know what they want to do on the mound and they have a routine and I'm learning a lot from everyone."
Getting the save in his second appearance in a week for Brooklyn, it seems that Rustich may have edged out Dan McDonald
, Stephen Clyne
and Eddie Kunz
as the main closer on a Brooklyn team stockpiled with great young arms. However, if you ask Rustich, it does not matter how much playing time he gets. More importantly, it is where he plays that matters most.
"I played in Cape Cod and we had 12,000 fans once, but this is definitely really the best environment I've ever played in," said Rustich. "Those fans just kind of sat there and watched the game, but the fans in New York will really get on you if you make a mistake. I think that makes all the difference. I'm really happy to be able to play in this kind of environment this early in my career."
The Mets' second round draft pick logged many intense innings under his belt at UCLA, but now the Cyclones possess his loaded arm and cool demeanor on the mound. As yet another hard throwing pitcher in the Brooklyn bullpen, Rustich aims to stand out amongst the talented crowd.