Thursday, March 26, 2015


It seems every spring training at least one virtual unknown out of an Independent league stuns some major league team. Think Jon Weber with the Yankees, Chris Coste with Philadelphia and last year Ian Thomas with the Braves.

James Hoyt (Wichita, KS) with Houston or Mark Hamburger (St. Paul, MN) with Minnesota, both out of the American Association, are decent stories this year although it seems unlikely anyone compares right now to 26-year-old Frontier League product Drew Rucinski, who is making a very big statement with the Los Angeles Angels.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed as much this week.

“Drew came in as guy no one paid a whole lot of attention to, but in the last 10 days, Drew has put himself in position not only to be on our club, but I have already fielded multiple phone calls from other teams wondering if Drew Rucinski might be available,” Dipoto told The Orange County Register this week. “He put his best forward at the right time, and we have noticed.”

Dipoto told the newspaper Rucinski is not only in the running for the long relief job opened when Cory Rasmus got hurt, but he could start for the Angels, confirming so far he has outpitched Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano. Asked flat-out about Rucinski’s chances of making the team, Dipoto said: “You should be liking them. He’s had an unbelievable spring.”

The right-hander went undrafted after four seasons at Ohio State (22-13), pitched one game for Rockford, IL in 2011, then got a brief look from the Cleveland Indians. Rucinski was back in the Frontier League city for all of ’12 and most of ’13 (a combined 11-10, mostly in starting roles) before the Angels signed him largely to fill out a Class A roster.

He was a strong 10-6, 3.14 as a starter for the Angels’ Double-A Arkansas team last season, and got into three games in relief for the parent club at season’s end.

The Neenah, WI native has allowed two runs in 12 innings this spring, including four hitless innings in a start against Colorado’s regular lineup. He pitched the final 4 2/3 innings of a victory over San Francisco on Sunday, ending the game with a strikeout with the tying run at third.

“I wish I could tell you we thought he was going to show up and do what he’s doing now, but sometimes you get lucky,” Dipoto admitted to The Register.

Rucinski is scheduled to pitch again Friday, possibly in a minor league game, mostly to get enough innings of work.

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