Name: Matt Bush
After being converted to the mound from his shortstop position last year, Bush netted just a handful of innings pitched before a breaking ball to his second batter faced in the Midwest League ended his season. Tommy John surgery was the end result and the long rehab process began.
In May, Bush acknowledged that he might have been trying too hard – literally. He was trying to overpower every hitter he faced and the pop in his arm occurred on a 90 MPH slider.
After missing three years on the mound to ply his trade a fielder, his arm simply wasn't ready for the stress and Bush's need to make things happen quickly and compete at a high level led, in part, to the resulting injury.
When he is pitching, Bush has electric stuff.
His fastball was working in the 95-98 MPH range last season in the Arizona Rookie League and he was able to spot it up at will. What is more amazing is his fastball comes out of his hand easy with seemingly little effort.
While his fastball is certainly in a different class because of his ability to locate it, his secondary pitches are nothing to sneeze at.
The slider reacts far differently than the curveball and could become a plus-pitch. He has very good differential between the fastball and breaking ball and the pitch has late tilt darting down in the zone.
The changeup remains a work in progress for the youngster, relegated to side sessions in the past, but has been a definite point of emphasis for the righty. During his rehabilitation, Bush found that it was becoming a crucial pitch and making definitive strides.
"I lost that pitch every since 10th grade in high school," Bush admitted. "This process of messing around with the grip multiple times really helped me. I finally found it. There is still more learning to do with that pitch because it is still pretty new to me. That is great, though. I feel like I don't have to throw as hard. I don't have to blow it out. I can throw that pitch and it makes my fastball look even faster."
Bush sports a curveball that has good bite, but he will tend to overthrow it and leave it hanging up in the zone or drop it in the dirt when he wants a low strike. It has a lot of movement and acts like a slurve at times.
"I am trying to throw strikes and get a feel for each pitch and remember how my curveball breaks," Bush said of his rehab. "It is a little tough. I keep throwing it down the middle and it keeps breaking way too far outside. I forgot how it actually moves."
It is possible that he will shelve either the slider or curveball in the future, but he is trying to find both right now to figure out which one will work best moving forward.
He has a competitive nature and finally is having fun again, injury aside. Bush wants to prove he is not the bust that many have labeled him as and that fiery attitude can be seen in his demeanor. As a result, he has attacked the need for knowledge with ambition and that is a major positive and far cry from the immature young man he was when he first came out.
Conclusion: Destined to return to competitive pitching, Bush is a question mark. Will his velocity drop? How soon can the command return? Will he be the same pitcher he was prior to the injury? The Padres think so, adding him to the 40-man roster.
An affirmative to those questions makes Bush a top prospect that could one day assume a large role at the backend of the Padres bullpen. Anything less and where he falls in terms of the prospect hierarchy is vast. The 2009 season will dictate which side of the coin he ends up on. The bet here is the Padres push him quickly to find out if he is ready for prime time.
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