Oliver Finding His Groove in Pro Ball

The Detroit Tigers have had quite a bit of success recently in drafting pitchers. From Justin Verlander to Rick Porcello, the Tigers have produced a good number of arms that have all made the big league club. They hope to have found another in 6'4" lefty Andrew Oliver.

The Tigers drafted the former Oklahoma State Cowboy pitcher, and Vermillion, Ohio native, with the 58th pick overall in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft.

Oliver attended Vermillion High School in Ohio, just two-and-half hours west of Erie before going on to a stellar collegiate career for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

After his phenomenal high school career he had a tough decision to make about whether to go to college or sign with the Minnesota Twins who had drafted in the 17th round of the 2006 MLB free agent draft.

"At first it was a little difficult deciding on college or the pros," said Oliver.

He ultimately decided to go to college, and chose Oklahoma State. Oliver said one of the main reasons that he chose Oklahoma State was because of Brett Anderson. "I played on a summer team in Cincinnati with him," Oliver said. "We became friends my junior year of high school and after meeting his dad and hearing more about Oklahoma state I decided to go there."

In his freshman season at Oklahoma State Oliver finished the season tied for the team lead in wins with six.

He improved even more in his sophomore season, going 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the Cowboys before his season was cut short thanks to an NCAA investigation.

Oliver had an advisor when deciding on whether to go to college or sign with the Twins. The NCAA ruled him ineligible and Oliver went to court to fight for his eligibility.

After not being able to complete his sophomore season Oliver was reinstated for his junior season. Although he was a little up-and-down, going 5-6 during his junior year, Oliver did show an ability to put hitters away striking out 97 in 88 1/3 innings.

The Tigers decided they could not pass up drafting Oliver when he fell to them in the second-round of the 2009 MLB free agent draft.

After going through contract negotiations Oliver did not pitch for the Tigers until the Arizona Fall League. He was impressive in the AFL with a 2.81 ERA, striking out 16 in 16 innings pitched. He did still struggled with his command, allowing nine walks.

Oliver made his official professional debut for the Erie SeaWolves this season against the Binghamton Mets. The debut did not go the way he wanted it as he lasted 3 2/3 innings giving up 6 runs (5 earned), striking out four, while also walking four hitters.

In college Oliver could get away with just his raw stuff. He possesses a fastball that has touched as high as 98 mph, but sits in 92-94 range. He also has an excellent change-up and is working on a slider that has the capability to be a plus pitch. Getting hitters out at the professional level however has proven to be quite different though.

Oliver also has learned the importance of working ahead in the count, even though he still has struggled with his command at times.

"The adjustment (to pro ball) has gone alright so far," said Oliver. "I've started throwing my slider more and using my off-speed stuff in different counts."

This was never more evident than in his second win of the season. Against the Bowie Baysox the southpaw worked five innings and struck out 10 batters.

"I felt good, but I was happier that we got the win," Oliver said. "I was commanding the ball real well that day, and had my off-speed stuff going."

Oliver could find his way to Detroit as either a starter or reliever some day. And that doesn't bother him.

"I like starting but whatever they need me to do," said Oliver. "Obviously they will make the decision ultimately."

The future is bright for Oliver and we should someday see him in Detroit. For now though he is working hard on improving his secondary pitches and trying to be the best pitcher he can be for the Erie SeaWolves.

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