Steven White's Season of Self Discovery

After going a combined 11-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 21 starts in his first professional season in 2004, Steven White, affectionately called "Whitey" by his friends and teammates, seemed on top of the world. However, an abdominal strain and subsequent struggles in 2005 tarnished his second season until his breakout performance in the Arizona Fall League, completing a year of self discovery.

Drafted in the 4th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Baylor University, White's dominant first year at the professional level in 2004 was the type of season that makes other pitchers green with envy. He limited opposing batters to a combined .209 batting average in his two stops between Battle Creek and Tampa a year ago, skyrocketing his way up the prospect charts.

But as quickly as he rose into favor with prospect followers, White equally fell out of it with a disappointing 2005 season. Of course, a serious abdominal strain that caused him to miss more than two months of the year had a major influence in his surprisingly awful stats (2-7, 6.44 ERA).

"With the abdominal strain I had, at some point, I had changed my mechanics because of it," White told PinstripesPlus.com in a recent interview. "I just wasn't able to command my fastball. Whatever the reason, I just wasn't comfortable and with each bad outing it shattered my confidence."

Anybody that knows Steven White realizes he is one of the more positive people in the Yankees' farm system, continually working through tedious drills and pitching with a never-ending smile. For White, the game of baseball is, and always has been, about having fun.

"When I first came back from the injury, I was getting pissed off. I've never really been a guy that goes into the dugout and throws stuff when I'm mad, but I did do that one time this year [after the injury]. It was after that I realized that I need to get back into my game. If I'm not having fun, I'm out of my game."

A big reason for the lack of fun for White in 2005 was the frustration from a lack of command of his fastball after the injury effected his pitching mechanics. But even when he was struggling, White, the eternal optimist, continued to find the positive side of a negative situation.

"Because I wasn't able to locate my fastball consistently, I was using my changeup a lot more," a happier Steven White told us after his stint in the Arizona Fall League. "I have no idea why, but when my mechanics were failing me, it really helped me improve my changeup. It is really a pitch that I can go to now. And now, even my breaking ball is better after the injury. But, because of the injury, now my arm slot is a lot better with my changeup."

His improvements to his secondary pitches were not the only benefits from his unfortunate injury. Steven White had been the epitome of healthy his entire baseball life until the abdominal strain two weeks into the 2005 season.

"This was my first year to miss a start in like five years or so," White revealed. "I didn't really know how to handle that because I never really had an injury before. This season helped me to learn how to come back from an injury, which should help me down the road."

Overcoming injuries and bouncing back with clean and consistent mechanics is one of the hardest obstacles for a young pitcher, a lesson that White learned the hard way.

With his season seemingly spinning out of control, White entered the final two weeks with a 1-6 record with a 8.36 record before surrendering just one earned run in 12 1/3 innings and striking out 22 batters in his final two starts prior to venturing out in the Arizona Fall League.

"Because of the injury, I got my mechanics all screwed up," the 24-year old right-hander told us. "After I got back, Dave Eiland helped me get them back, which is a big reason why I had those two good starts at the end of the year and it just continued out here in the AFL [Arizona Fall League]. I think pitching here helps you focus too. You don't have anybody you can throw a strike to, right down the middle. You're facing guys that you know are going to be big league hitters someday and it made me throw my changeup and my breaking balls more. If you groove a 2-0 fastball to somebody down here, they'd hit it 500 feet."

White opened some eyes with his dazzling performance in the Arizona Fall League against the game's elite hitting prospects, especially in his first five starts. He posted a 1.35 in his first five games before struggling in his final two starts.

His stock as a pitching prospect in 2005 was fluctuating up and down like a tech stock on Wall Street.

"A lot of people have a 'what have you done for me lately' thought process," White confessed about his frustration over people's perception of him. "I know in my mind now, especially after the Arizona Fall League, I know I can handle the higher levels. I had a couple of bad starts towards the end there, but there wasn't too many pitchers that had good starts down the stretch."

White's 2005 season, especially after going just 2-7 with a 6.44 ERA, could have easily have been a lost year for most pitching prospects. The way he learned about himself and pitched himself back into his old form, so much so that he dominated future Major League hitters with regularity in the Arizona Fall League, White's seemingly "lost" season could have been the year he turned a corner in his development.

"It was kind of a learning experience," White said about his overall season in 2005. "After the great year I had last year [in 2004], this past season showed me that I still needed to learn some stuff. I came here to the AFL because I had to prove to myself that I could get out big league hitters. Hopefully, with the performance I had out here, I've given myself a chance to break with Columbus next year."

"Obviously I hope so, but I have no control over that," White pondered. "Even if I had pitched really well this past season, it would still depend on what I do in Spring Training next year. If I can pitch there [Spring Training] like I did here, I am pretty sure I'll be going to Columbus [in 2006]."

Seemingly now brimming with even more confidence than he had before his abdominal strain, White sounds like a completely different pitcher. He knows he is a lot better than some pundits believe him to be, definitely a lot better than his 2005 results indicate, and his selection to Team USA only helped increase his self perception.

"I know I'm a good pitcher, even though it was what many would consider a down year for me," the confident pitching prospect told us. "I mean, it is not like Team USA would have many pitchers with a 6.50 ERA if they didn't think I was any good. If I'm relaxed, I'm not overthrowing. I just needed to settle back down and now, I feel like I've redeemed myself."

To say Steven White's season in 2005 was a roller coaster ride would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. Even though he improved his changeup and learned how to recover from an injury, two major positives from an otherwise disappointing season, White's season was more of a journey towards self discovery.

"I think the two biggest things I'll need to be a successful pitcher in the Major Leagues is consistency and knowing myself. And I think I really learned a lot about myself this past season."

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nDrafted in the 4th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Baylor University, White's dominant first year at the professional level in 2004 was the type of season that makes other pitchers green with envy. He limited opposing batters to a combined .209 batting average in his two stops between Battle Creek and Tampa a year ago, skyrocketing his way up the prospect charts.
\r\n
\r\nBut as quickly as he rose into favor with prospect followers, White equally fell out of it with a disappointing 2005 season. Of course, a serious abdominal strain that caused him to miss more than two months of the year had a major influence in his surprisingly awful stats (2-7, 6.44 ERA).
\r\n
\r\n\"With the abdominal strain I had, at some point, I had changed my mechanics because of it,\" White told PinstripesPlus.com in a recent interview. \"I just wasn't able to command my fastball. Whatever the reason, I just wasn't comfortable and with each bad outing it shattered my confidence.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnybody that knows Steven White realizes he is one of the more positive people in the Yankees' farm system, continually working through tedious drills and pitching with a never-ending smile. For White, the game of baseball is, and always has been, about having fun.
\r\n
\r\n\"When I first came back from the injury, I was getting pissed off. I've never really been a guy that goes into the dugout and throws stuff when I'm mad, but I did do that one time this year [after the injury]. It was after that I realized that I need to get back into my game. If I'm not having fun, I'm out of my game.\"
\r\n
\r\nA big reason for the lack of fun for White in 2005 was the frustration from a lack of command of his fastball after the injury effected his pitching mechanics. But even when he was struggling, White, the eternal optimist, continued to find the positive side of a negative situation.
\r\n
\r\n\"Because I wasn't able to locate my fastball consistently, I was using my changeup a lot more,\" a happier Steven White told us after his stint in the Arizona Fall League. \"I have no idea why, but when my mechanics were failing me, it really helped me improve my changeup. It is really a pitch that I can go to now. And now, even my breaking ball is better after the injury. But, because of the injury, now my arm slot is a lot better with my changeup.\"
\r\n
\r\nHis improvements to his secondary pitches were not the only benefits from his unfortunate injury. Steven White had been the epitome of healthy his entire baseball life until the abdominal strain two weeks into the 2005 season.
\r\n
\r\n\"This was my first year to miss a start in like five years or so,\" White revealed. \"I didn't really know how to handle that because I never really had an injury before. This season helped me to learn how to come back from an injury, which should help me down the road.\"
\r\n
\r\nOvercoming injuries and bouncing back with clean and consistent mechanics is one of the hardest obstacles for a young pitcher, a lesson that White learned the hard way.
\r\n
\r\nWith his season seemingly spinning out of control, White entered the final two weeks with a 1-6 record with a 8.36 record before surrendering just one earned run in 12 1/3 innings and striking out 22 batters in his final two starts prior to venturing out in the Arizona Fall League.
\r\n
\r\n\"Because of the injury, I got my mechanics all screwed up,\" the 24-year old right-hander told us. \"After I got back, Dave Eiland helped me get them back, which is a big reason why I had those two good starts at the end of the year and it just continued out here in the AFL [Arizona Fall League]. I think pitching here helps you focus too. You don't have anybody you can throw a strike to, right down the middle. You're facing guys that you know are going to be big league hitters someday and it made me throw my changeup and my breaking balls more. If you groove a 2-0 fastball to somebody down here, they'd hit it 500 feet.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhite opened some eyes with his dazzling performance in the Arizona Fall League against the game's elite hitting prospects, especially in his first five starts. He posted a 1.35 in his first five games before struggling in his final two starts.
\r\n
\r\nHis stock as a pitching prospect in 2005 was fluctuating up and down like a tech stock on Wall Street.
\r\n
\r\n\"A lot of people have a 'what have you done for me lately' thought process,\" White confessed about his frustration over people's perception of him. \"I know in my mind now, especially after the Arizona Fall League, I know I can handle the higher levels. I had a couple of bad starts towards the end there, but there wasn't too many pitchers that had good starts down the stretch.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhite's 2005 season, especially after going just 2-7 with a 6.44 ERA, could have easily have been a lost year for most pitching prospects. The way he learned about himself and pitched himself back into his old form, so much so that he dominated future Major League hitters with regularity in the Arizona Fall League, White's seemingly \"lost\" season could have been the year he turned a corner in his development.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was kind of a learning experience,\" White said about his overall season in 2005. \"After the great year I had last year [in 2004], this past season showed me that I still needed to learn some stuff. I came here to the AFL because I had to prove to myself that I could get out big league hitters. Hopefully, with the performance I had out here, I've given myself a chance to break with Columbus next year.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Obviously I hope so, but I have no control over that,\" White pondered. \"Even if I had pitched really well this past season, it would still depend on what I do in Spring Training next year. If I can pitch there [Spring Training] like I did here, I am pretty sure I'll be going to Columbus [in 2006].\"
\r\n
\r\nSeemingly now brimming with even more confidence than he had before his abdominal strain, White sounds like a completely different pitcher. He knows he is a lot better than some pundits believe him to be, definitely a lot better than his 2005 results indicate, and his selection to Team USA only helped increase his self perception.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know I'm a good pitcher, even though it was what many would consider a down year for me,\" the confident pitching prospect told us. \"I mean, it is not like Team USA would have many pitchers with a 6.50 ERA if they didn't think I was any good. If I'm relaxed, I'm not overthrowing. I just needed to settle back down and now, I feel like I've redeemed myself.\"
\r\n
\r\nTo say Steven White's season in 2005 was a roller coaster ride would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. Even though he improved his changeup and learned how to recover from an injury, two major positives from an otherwise disappointing season, White's season was more of a journey towards self discovery.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the two biggest things I'll need to be a successful pitcher in the Major Leagues is consistency and knowing myself. And I think I really learned a lot about myself this past season.\"
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