Ingram gets the job done

Though Frisco closer Jesse Ingram's 4.21 ERA wasn't picture perfect, he was lights-out with the game on the line. The 25-year-old converted 26-of-27 save opportunities in 2007 while holding opposing hitters to a paltry .191 batting average. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke to the hurler about his season.

Jesse Ingram's bizarre 2007 season seemed to be a tale of two halves. At the time of the Texas League All-Star break, the closer was a perfect 15-for-15 in saves despite his 5.70 ERA.

"It was kind of a patchy start," said Ingram of his first half. "Spring training went really well – I felt I threw the ball well. I came into the season with some high expectations. I kind of had anything and everything happen to me that first month. But I kept getting the job done; my numbers just weren't as good."

The right-hander's first half ERA came after holding opposing batters to a .206 average and punching out 44 hitters in just 36.1 innings. Ingram says the bad luck can be tough to deal with, but as a closer, he can't dwell on it.

"It's always on your mind, especially when you're giving up weird runs and can't seem to figure out how it's happening," replied Ingram. "You're human. You can call it a freak incident all you want, but it's happening. You can't take away the runs or the numbers. Everyone does [think about it], it's just how well you can erase it each outing."

Ingram also believes that – aside from needing a short memory – it is also best for a reliever to forget about their statistics.

"The biggest thing about this season is just learning to go out and do your job and not be statistically focused," said Ingram. "I think that's one thing that buries a pitcher. If you're trying to make up for a bad first half and you're trying to dedicate your second half to turning it around, I think that's just one of those deals where you're fighting an uphill battle. As long as you kind of disassociate the two, you're in much better shape in my mind."

With an outstanding second half, it would seem that Ingram was able to keep the struggles and statistical worries out of his mind. The reliever went on to post a 2.10 ERA after the All-Star break. For the season, the right-hander finished with 26 saves and a 4.21 earned run average. He surrendered just 43 hits while striking out 70 in 62.0 Double-A innings.

"I think I had a pretty good second half in terms of the way I went out and threw the ball stuff-wise," he said. "I won't say I salvaged a good season – I think the whole season was pretty good. But I definitely threw better in the second half."

Although Ingram does admit he was a better pitcher in the second half, he credits a lot of his success to his defense and a little luck.

"It was just one of those things where it just clicked during the second half," said Ingram. "I was getting some breaks – some balls that were falling in the first half weren't falling in the second half. My infielders were making great plays behind me. All that stuff takes pressure off you as a pitcher."

If Ingram struggled in any facet of the game during the second half, it was home runs allowed. The hurler surrendered 10 home runs on the season, including five in the second half. In fact, five of Ingram's six earned runs yielded after the All-Star break came on leadoff home runs. Ingram believes his reputation as an aggressive pitcher was partly to blame.

"It's no secret that I come in and attack a hitter," he said. "I think that's one of my strengths and also, depending on the hitter, it can be one of my weaknesses. I'm always pretty much in or around the strike zone. I think that's what I'm known for."

Because Ingram believes the issue had more to do with the pitches than the approach, he doesn't plan on letting the home runs change the way he attacks hitters.

"I think they were bad pitches," replied Ingram when asked about the home runs. "They tail back in. I don't think it was a thing where you come in and you're just trying to get a feel for the inning. I feel I'm usually very much ready to go by the first pitch. I had every intention of making a good first pitch, but whether it happened or not is intentions versus the way it actually turns out. The goal of the pitch was good, but the execution was poor. It didn't change the way I attack a hitter."

The 25-year-old worked to improve in a few areas as the 2007 season progressed. Early in the season, he worked with Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark on his mechanics.

"A lot of it was just my alignment," said Ingram of his focus. "There are so many different kinds of things that can throw you off throughout your motion. I was kind of throwing around my body at the beginning of the season and I started working with [Terry Clark] being my eyes and then being in constant conversation about it. You can't think about it when you're on the mound. All the work happens before the game. You really have to try to separate the two once you get out there."

Ingram – who already has a good 1-2 punch with his fastball and slider – also worked on developing his third pitch this past year. Although he has always thrown a changeup, Ingram says he has struggled to find a comfortable grip in the past. The reliever believes he was able to find a comfort zone with his third pitch in 2007.

"It was probably the most effective grip I've found," replied Ingram when asked about his changeup. "It was just one of those things where it's still my third pitch. Even on the best days I was throwing it, I was still much more confident in my slider and my fastball. But it definitely gave me more options to a lefty. The times I did throw it well, it was an effective pitch. It's just something I continued to work on throughout the season."

Currently at his offseason home in California, Ingram is just about ready to begin preparing for the next season, his fourth in professional baseball.

"I've started lifting and running," said Ingram. "I'm kind of building my shoulder back up to start throwing again. I'll probably start doing some light toss here in about a week or so."

A product of Cal Berkeley, Ingram is doing some prep work before he fires up his arm in anticipation of another season.

"I think the most important thing is to make sure – even if it's the lightest toss – you've got to make sure your shoulder is ready to go through that motion again. Everyone says ‘you've thrown for eight, nine, or ten months – wouldn't it just kind of click?' I wish it was that easy. You build your arm strength up as you throw, but joint stability and all that stuff you harp on during the season is very, very important. You want to make sure it's at a certain level before you start throwing."

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