Rutckyj Finding A Home In The Pen

TAMPA, FL - Left-hander Evan Rutckyj was always known for having a plus arm but could never really put it all together as a starting pitcher because he didn't throw enough strikes. Transitioned to the bullpen last year, he has found a role he's comfortable with; he's attacking batters more and the success he has shown so far in 2015 is a good sign for his long-term future in the organization.

In his second full season as a reliever, Rutckyj has shown that he can be a dependable lefty, one who also can hit 95 MPH coming out of the bullpen. So far has a 2.28 ERA to go along with 32 strikeouts and only nine walks in 23.2 innings pitched.

“He’s throwing the ball over the plate, his stuff is plenty good enough. He’s been getting ahead in the count and been able to put hitters away.” Tampa pitching coach Tommy Phelps said.

Phelps emphasized on Rutckyj’s ability to get the ball over the plate, his consistency, and his ability to adapt to the bullpen as reasons for his success early on.

“He knows how to prepare himself, he’s pretty durable. Everyday he’s ready to pitch, that’s a good quality coming out of the bullpen," Phelps said. "I think he’s having a lot of success there [in the bullpen] and I think he’s going to stay there”.

His pitch selection [a fastball that can hit 95 and a devastating curveball] have helped the 6-foot-5 lefty put hitters away late in the game, but Rutckyj is also working on fine tuning another pitch.

“One thing we’re messing around is his changeup," Phelps revealed, "trying to get it more consistent, he’s had a good one at times but it's not consistent. He can add more depth in the bullpen with a long guy or a lefty guy."

For Evan Rutckyj, the transition from the starting rotation to the bullpen has been a smooth one.

“I feel like I got put into a lot better routine as a reliever and I feel like I’m more comfortable on the mound," Rutckyj admitted.

While the transition has been smooth, Rutckyj still says that going from a starter to a reliever does have its differences.

“You have to be ready to go a whole lot more often, you don’t have a timeline. Being a starter you know that you’re going to be pitching every five days. Being a reliever, you pretty much have to be ready everyday. I feel like mentally you have to be ready everyday and prepare yourself for the game everyday”.

Rutckyj says that he feels he’s been really consistent with his stuff lately, and feels that he is so far having a good year.

“My stuff’s been really good, my fastball's been good and my curveball has been lights out. I’ve been feeling healthy and really good.”

Rutckyj addressed his control issues that plagued him in the past, and how this year he has been able to limit how many men he puts on base via the free pass.

“It’s a lot to do with mental preparation. In the game it’s attacking hitters. Last year I was trying to strike everyone out," he admitted again. "A 2-0 count I would throw breaking pitches and get further behind in the count. This year I’m attacking hitters and go right after them. If they hit it I don’t care."

While some pitchers may take some velocity off their fastball to be able to throw more strikes, Rutckyj says that he hasn’t taken anything off his fastball, and surprisingly, his velocity is actually up.

Manager Dave Bialas has liked what he has seen from Rutckyj, in his first season working with Rutckyj. Like Phelps, Bialas noted Rutckyj’s pitches and consistency as a key reason why he is having a successful season.

“He has a plus arm, he’s throwing up to 95 [mph] as a left-hander and has a good breaking ball. All he has to do is throw strikes and be consistent in the strike zone. He’ll pitch higher without a doubt. Left-handers with good arms are hard to find."

“I think he’s a reliever," Bialas said. "So I think that’s where he is going to move the quickest. I think he’s going to be a bullpen guy; a left-hander who can come in and get a left-hander out is needed everywhere.”

Bialas did say that Rutckyj needed to focus on getting out left handed batters out more, but pitches to right handed batters well. Bialas also says that he believes that after five years in A ball, Evan Rutckyj is “close” to getting promoted to Double-A.

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