Most of the players that we write about didn’t really worry about what their role was in high school or college; they dominated the competition in whatever they were asked to do. However, as the competition increases the opportunities to excel also narrow.
LHP Brandon Alger, 22, was drafted in the 26th round out of Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana – one of three players in the history of the NAIA school to be selected – in the 2012 draft following a strong sophomore year with the Wolverines. As a starter in his last year of college he made 13 starts and compiled a 2.37 ERA in 91 innings for an 8-2 record with an 80/21strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio.
He also experienced some success in his first season of pro ball with short-season Eugene posting a 4-1 record in 422 innings for a 2.32 ERA. However, he struggled in his next year after being jumped to Lake Elsinore with a 6.30 ERA as a starter before being moved to the pen; which may have been the best thing for his career.
Since moving to the bullpen Alger has thrived. After being moved to the pen he saw his ERA move to 2.57 in August and this year he even took over the closer’s role when the Padres promoted, then traded, Trevor Gott.
As Alger told Fort Wayne.com the bullpen is more about getting outs than having a wide assortment of pitches in addition to there is much less downtime when an outing doesn’t go your way.
This season with the Storm he finished with a 2.70 ERA with 15 saves in 19 opportunities. Alger struck out 73 batters in 63.1 innings against only 19 walks and 45 hits. As his pitching coach Bronswell Patrick noted in our interview with him, Alger is capable of going multiple innings and was even more effective against right-handed hitters (.178) than lefties (.206).
His season isn’t finished yet as San Diego tabbed him to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and he should be the closer on a very good Missions’ pitching staff in 2015.
When Trevor Gott was promoted and then traded, you moved into the closer’s role and have done pretty well in that role.
Brandon Alger: I always thought it would be fun to be the closer or the late inning guy. In the bullpen we have a joke that we just say we have a couple of guys that are “late inning” guys.
You don’t get any special treatment or have your own unique schedule?
Brandon Alger: [laughs] No, no special treatment.
You were a starter last year and then they moved you to the pen and your numbers really picked up. Why?
Brandon Alger: The only reason that I can think off is that as a starter you have four days to think about your last start, or dwell on it if it went bad. In the pen you don’t have as much time to think, you just have to go out there and do what you do.
That has probably helped me out the most.
When I’ve spoken with other guys that have moved from starting to relief they like it because it just becomes about getting outs not setting up pitch sequences.
Brandon Alger: Exactly. You just go out there and throw what you have and do your job.
What do you throw?
Brandon Alger: I have a fastball, cutter, slurve and have been working on a splitter which I use as a change-up. The splitter is coming, but right now it’s more for show or to get guys to chase.
Is your fastball a four or two-seamer?
Brandon Alger: Mostly four-seamers. Every once in awhile a two-seamer. The cutter moves into righties. With hitters on both sides I try to stay down and away, although I will come in occasionally to lefties.
How has it been adjusting to pitching in the Cal League because we hear so many horror stories from pitchers about it?
Brandon Alger: There are a few fair parks but in most of them the ball flies pretty well. Last year I was more shell-shocked. This year I have a better idea of what is going on.
It’s nice that our is a fair park as opposed to some of the places that we play.
You talk about it is not being “as big a surprise” is that about learning to keep the ball down at all times or it can be really bad?
Brandon Alger: [laughs] That is a very big message. I learned that again in Lancaster a few weeks ago.
When you talk about keeping the ball down, for those of us who played Little League, we think that means below the belt. It’s a little lower than that for you guys.
Brandon Alger: [laughs] Yeah. We are talking knees and shins. For me it has to be at the knees because even thigh high can get punished anywhere.
It’s been a long season. What are you going to try to accomplish in the off-season besides some long naps?
Brandon Alger: I take a week or two and rest and try to really hit the weights hard. Around mid-December I start to throw again.
When you talk about hitting the weights it’s not about loading up the bench press. For a pitcher like you whose future is in the bullpen what do you try to accomplish?
Brandon Alger: Lower half and back are big with me. I’m not a big guy but I need to get stronger for core strength and in my legs. I want to keep my flexility but I wouldn’t mind putting on a good ten pounds.