Longshot Bumstead guns for late-round success

It's fashionable -- perhaps "chic" is a more appropriate word -- to label young players as phenoms. As a 32nd round pick in this year's draft, Nate Bumstead wouldn't normally fit that definition. However, based on his debut season, the 22-year-old right-hander may be worthy of such a tag. Having gone 3-1, 2.03 with 75 strikeouts in 57.2 innings at Oneonta, the former LSU Tiger certainly had New York-Penn League hitters in a dither. (FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT)

"He's (Nate Bumstead) one of those guys who knows how to get hitters out," said Oneonta pitching coach Bill Monboquette. "He wasn't taken near the top of the draft, but he's out-pitched a lot of guys who were."

While first-rounders like Kyle Sleeth and Justin Verlander draw most of the ink, others have proven that you don't need to be a bonus-baby to make it to the major leagues. Bumstead shares a birthday with an unheralded Tigers pitcher of yesteryear, Dave Gumpert. Gumpert was signed as an undrafted free-agent in 1980, a year that also saw Walt Terrell go in the 33rd round, Detroit host the Republican National Convention and Blondie hit number-one on the pop charts. By 1982 Gumpert and Terrell were in the majors, and 22 years later Bumstead looks to defy the odds and follow in their footsteps.

"I think it's in my own hands," said Bumstead, a native of Las Vegas. "Some people might claim that a low-round pick won't get a fair shot, but I see myself as being in a good organization with a lot of room to move up. If I work hard and continue to pitch to my strengths, I feel I can do just that."

His strengths include an ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes, and what he lacks in velocity he makes up for with movement.

"He doesn't throw all that hard," said Monboquette, "but he has good control and feel for his pitches. And he definitely has good movement."

Bumstead's self-assessment is similar.

"I'm usually around 86 or 87 on the gun," he explained, "but movement and location are what get it done for me. Being a pitcher is what it's all about -- not trying to throw it by everybody."

That doesn't mean Bumstead doesn't come after hitters.

"Just because I don't throw 95," Bumstead adds, "doesn't mean I can't be aggressive. I'm not scared to throw strikes -- or knock people off the plate. I like to attack hitters with my four-seamer, which runs in on lefthanders. It's similar to Mariano Rivera's cutter, only not quite as hard. I'll also throw a slider and a tumbling change up. I hold my change near my finger tips and pull it down like a window shade. I'm not always sure what it will do, but it's an effective pitch for me."

Bumstead thinks highly of Monboquette as a teacher, and appreciates his pitching coach's willingness to let him be himself on the mound.

"My motion is herky-jerky," said Bumstead, "but Monbo recognizes that while my mechanics aren't perfect, that's my style. He makes sure my delivery is consistent, and that's what matters. He's old-school all the way, too. He's a tough gamer, which is what a pitcher should be. That's why he was successful when he played, and you can learn a lot from someone like that."

Based on his first year of pro ball, Bumstead seems to be learning well. A history and psychology major at LSU, he's smart enough to understand that expectations aren't what bring success -- effort and results are. The round he was chosen in doesn't matter any more -- he's shown that he knows how to get hitters out, and that's what counts.

David Laurila is a sportswriter residing in Boston. He can be reached at DLaurila@aol.com

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