How does a college reliever win nine games? First, you have to be good. Second, you have to get plenty of opportunities to keep your team close until the offense can do enough to win the game. Clayton Stewart has both of those ingredients and won nine games out of the bullpen for the University of Texas in 2005. It's kind of odd actually that Stewart got the chances that he did since the previous season he pitched in just three games for the Longhorns. His workload increased dramatically in 2005 and he pitched in 41 games, giving the club 68 innings of relief.
Four years ago, the Seattle Mariners thought Stewart was ready for the minors out of high school. Instead of signing with the Mariners, who drafted Stewart in the 31st round, the right-hander went to the University of Texas and looked to improve his stock with the Longhorns. By the time his senior season was done, the Phillies, Giants, Rockies and Cubs were all interested in drafting Stewart. He fell below where he had hoped to go and the Phillies seemed to almost be not interested in grabbing Stewart compared to the other clubs. Then, suddenly, Stewart heard his name called when the Phillies selected in the 28th round.
"In all honesty, I was pretty frustrated," remembered Stewart. "I still think going to Texas was the right thing, but I guess I was beginning to wonder."
The Phillies had Stewart in Batavia this summer, with the exception of a quick stint in the Gulf Coast League for just a couple of appearances. Needless to say, the summer went well for Stewart and odds are that he will be advanced to Lakewood in 2006. Stewart wasn't exactly dominating, but his stock did rise with his performance. If he continues to perfect his slider, Stewart could eventually move into plans for the back part of the bullpen at the major league level. For now though that's all a little premature.
Stewart relies on keeping the ball down in the zone and uses primarily sinkers and sliders to accomplish that feat. Opposing hitters have described his sinker as "heavy", making Stewart well fashioned for a relief role. The Phillies love the fact that he didn't put too many miles on his arm in his junior season and believe that he is a guy who can definitely give them a good amount of innings out of the bullpen if needed. Control is also a prime part of Stewart's success. Stewart had averaged about one walk every three innings throughout his college career and kept that average in tact with Batavia. He picks up a fair amount of strikeouts, but will get most of his outs on groundballs.
So, just what will the Phillies do with Stewart next spring? It's never easy to know for sure, but Stewart would figure to be on the Lakewood roster, depending how he pitches in camp next spring. It's possible that the Phillies will keep him in extended camp for a while and it's also just as possible that they will promote him higher and challenge him with an assignment to Clearwater. Next season could be one where Stewart will truly put himself on the radar as a prospect to be reckoned with out of the bullpen.
Clayton Stewart's 2005 Statistics