Cyclones' Ruckle begins to blossom

There are guys like Mike Pelfrey, a first round pick expected to make a huge impact on the Major League level and be a staple in the rotation for the next decade. Then there are guys like Jake Ruckle.

A pitcher taken as the 1,214th player overall in the 41st round of last year's amateur draft, Ruckle had none of the high expectations that Pelfrey was saddled with, but has suddenly blossomed out of nowhere.

A 6-foot-2, 195-pound right handed starting pitcher out of Mohave Valley, Az., Ruckle has dazzled batters in the New York-Penn League this season with his unorthodox delivery and mesmerizing off-speed pitches.

Ruckle went 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA last season with the Gulf Coast League Mets, showing his outstanding control, walking just 10 batters in 55 2/3 innings pitched and had a 1.04 WHIP overall.

This season with the Cyclones, Ruckle has continued his success. After a brief stint with Class-A St. Lucie where Ruckle went 4-3 with a 1.60 ERA, Ruckle came to Brooklyn and has shown no signs of slowing down. Ruckle is 1-1 on the year with a 2.61 ERA in three starts, and has a scoreless streak of 16 2/3 innings pitched.

But Ruckle said he hasn't done anything special in terms of his performances, keeping it simple for himself.

"I just do what I can do," said Ruckle after pitching 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the Staten Island Yankees. "I try to change speeds and I locate all of my pitches. I was in St. Lucie and I did the same thing and I'll continue to do same thing as I go."

Ruckle's out-pitch is his change-up, which he uses in concert with his fastball to keep batters off stride.

"To me, the change-up is the best pitch," said Ruckle. "I'm just throwing strikes and changing speeds."

Ruckle's ability to deceive hitters is in a large part due his delivery. Ruckle lifts his leg high, near his head, hiding the ball from the hitters until the very last moments. Ruckle said he picked it up after getting some advice.

"I have a scout that signed me, his name is Dave Birecki," said Ruckle. "When I was coming out of high school, he asked me ‘You should try to create some deception…just try to flare your front arm up.' I try to exaggerate a little bit, I've always had a high leg kick and I started doing that, and I like it, it felt comfortable right from the get-go."

Ruckle also gives credit to his great performances to Cyclones pitching coach Hector Berrios.

"Hector's done a good job with us, I've been fortunate enough to be with Hector for two years now," said Ruckle. "He just stresses on throwing your change-up…just basically going after hitters."

His manager has also been thoroughly impressed with the young starter.

"When [Ruckle] went to St. Lucie from extended...I went over and saw him pitch," said Cyclone manager George Greer. "He spots his fastball, uses off-speed pitches, throws strikes, keeps the ball down and gives us a chance to be in the ball game and gives us a chance to win."

To his teammates, Ruckle is a throwback to an old-school starter and his performances are no surprise.

"I played with Ruckle last year," said Cyclone second basemen Jon Schemmel. "He's what you don't see in the minor leagues anymore. He doesn't throw 95, he doesn't throw 90 for that matter, but he knows how to pitch.

"He gets guys out with his change-up and I love that. He's dominated the Gulf Coast League last year, he's dominated High-A and I'm sure he's going to dominate here."

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