Rainwater Forecast Brighter than '04 Results

Josh Rainwater is a work in progress. The Tigers' fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft -- number 100 overall -- he just completed a disappointing 0-6, 4.22 season at Oneonta in which he walked 35 batters in 49 innings. Those numbers, however, belie his potential. The right-hander from DeRidder, Louisiana has a 93 mph fastball, and he won't turn 20 years old until next April.

"He [Josh Rainwater] has a strong arm," said Oneonta pitching coach Bill Monboquette, "and there's no doubt he has the tools to succeed. But right now his command and control aren't where they should be, and he's definitely struggled with his release point. He needs work on his mechanics, but I see him improving as he matures and gains experience."

Making the jump from high school to pro ball has been a difficult one for Rainwater, but under Monboquette's tutelage he's beginning to grasp the knowledge necessary to climb the organizational ladder.

"I've always been a fastball guy and a strikeout pitcher," Rainwater said, "but at this level it's harder to throw the ball by hitters. In high school and the Gulf Coast League that wasn't the case, but here I need to look more for outs -- not just strikeouts. I'm learning the importance of changing speeds and keeping my curve down in the zone, which are things Bill Monboquette talks to me about. I'm lucky to have him as a teacher -- he's been there and knows what it takes."

One thing it will take for Rainwater to progress is a consistent delivery.

"Out of a sound delivery comes a sound arm," said Monboquette, "but he's had trouble staying consistent with his arm-angle. He needs to stay on a down-plane, and there's been a tendency for him to revert back to bad habits and throw across his body. In order to stay healthy and get results, he has to correct that. But like I said, he's got a good arm and he's young -- it's a matter of him putting it all together."

Rainwater understands that his mechanics need work, as does his physical conditioning.

"I'm naturally a big guy," explained Rainwater, "and right now I weigh just over 230 pounds. I'd like to get down to about 215 or 220, which means a lot of running, biking and stair-stepping. I'm at an age where I'm filling into my physical maturity, and I need to get myself into the best shape possible if I want to fulfill my potential."

That potential would bring him to Comerica Park, where he would wear a cap similar to the one he wore at DeRidder high school.

"It was royal blue," explained Rainwater, "but otherwise it's the same Olde English "D" they wear in Detroit. It's an interesting coincidence that I ended up with the Tigers, and great that I'm with an organization that believes in building through their farm system. It's not like being with the Yankees, where the farm clubs exist mostly for trade purposes. Here I'll have a chance to develop and move up to Comerica someday."

For that to happen, Rainwater needs to harness his talent and start fulfilling the potential the Tigers saw when they drafted him over more experienced players.

"An advantage of signing out of high school," said Rainwater, "is that I'm getting an opportunity to play against older guys. Right now it seems like an uphill battle at times, but I'm gaining a lot from the experience. Plus, when I'm their age I'll already have a few years of pro ball under my belt."

Rainwater will continue gaining that experience next year, but the Tigers organization is looking for more than just potential. At 19 years of age he has youth on his side, but 2004 was more storm clouds than rays of hope for the Louisiana right-hander. He'll come into 2005 a year older and wiser, and that may be just what Josh Rainwater needs to make that next step. Time will tell.

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