June 18, 2009
By David Driver
For the Deseret News
Used with permission
BOWIE, Md. — Salt Lake City native Pat Overholt, in just his third full season in professional baseball, spent all of 2008 at the Class AA level in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system in Reading, Pa.
The Brighton High graduate made the transition from starter to reliever last year and entered 2009 with decent success, having allowed less than one hit per inning with nearly one strikeout per frame in 336.2 innings in the minors.
But someone high up in the Philadelphia organization — Overholt thinks it may have been former general manager Pat Gillick — suggested near the end of spring training the right-hander drop his delivery down to more of a three-quarters, sidearm motion.
"For me (the season) has been a lot better than what my numbers show," said Overholt, who began this year as the 26th-best prospect in the Philadelphia system, according to industry leader Baseball America. "I have been learning on the run. It is not so much did I come in and strike everybody out. Did I come in and stick to my game plan? I am just trying to get more movement on the ball and be more effective."
"We hope that change gives him better life on his fastball," Benny Looper, assistant general manager, player personnel for the Phillies, said in a phone interview from Philadelphia.
"It is an adjustment. He continues to improve," Reading manager Steve Roadcap said. "There are going to be ups and downs" with a new delivery.
Overholt, who threw two scoreless innings with five strikeouts here Tuesday, is one of three Utah products on the Reading staff. The others are Salem resident Tyson Brummett (Spanish Fork) and Salt Lake City native Jason Mackintosh (West).
"It is really nice to have guys from your home state," said Mackintosh, standing outside the Reading clubhouse before a recent game against the Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League.
Brummett, whose father was in the Air Force, was born in Mississippi and was drafted by the Phillies in the seventh round in 2007 out of UCLA.
Mackintosh, who began his pro career in the Cleveland system in 2001, was acquired by the Phillies last August. Overholt was drafted out of Santa Clara by the Phillies in 2005.
Overholt said when baseball gets to be a grind, which it does in the minors, the three players will pass time talking about Utah. The conversation may drift to their off-season plans, such as if any of them hope to go skiing.
And Overholt said there is "friendly banter" about their high schools, as Brummett made sure to let the others know when Spanish Fork won the state 5A baseball title in May.
But for now each pitcher has another pursuit: make it to The Show. Overholt, a top prospect, and Brummett, a high draft pick, appear to have the best shot, although their statistics (not always the best indicator) are not overwhelming nearing the midway point of the 142-game schedule.
"You see it all the time. Guys from this league will make the jump" to the majors, Overholt said. "The main goal is to stay consistent. It is very realistic."
"Last year I moved very quickly, three levels in one year," Brummett said. "I hope for my shot sometime. I feel I have the potential and ability to pitch there. I am just waiting my turn."
But that can be a challenge with the Phillies, whose staff includes ageless wonder Jamie Moyer, 46, and World Series MVP Cole Hamels.
"It is tougher to move up because you have so many guys ahead of you," Brummett said. "It is nice to play for a winning organization. It is good to be in a winning atmosphere."
Overholt, in 23 games out of the pen, allowed 29 hits and yielded16 walks with 20 strikeouts in 26.2 innings, and had an ERA of 4.73. Opponents had an average of .271 against him.
"It is all about, for me, staying healthy and throwing strikes," said Overholt, who had Tommy John surgery in college. "The time I can get in trouble is when I put guys on with free passes. As a reliever you never know when you are coming in. You have to have a short memory. One night you may not have your best game and then they ask you go out there again the next night."
Brummett, a starter, was 3-6, 4.67 in 13 games (12 starts) going into his start here Thursday against the Baysox. In 71.1 innings he allowed 82 hits (eight homers) and 16 walks with 56 strikeouts, and hitters had an average of .292 against him. "He had struggles early. But his change up has gotten better," Roadcap said.
"I have not missed a start in a long time," said Brummett, who has thrown well in recent starts by relying more on breaking balls. "I hope to keep that going my whole career. I am just trying to stay consistent."
Mackintosh was 0-0, with a 12.27 ERA in three games (3.2 innings) since being called up from Class A Clearwater June 8. He has allowed seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Opponents had an average of .389 against him. In spring training, Mackintosh hurt his pitching wrist while taking batting practice. "It took him a while to recover from that," Looper said.
He spent time in extended spring training, then went to Clearwater in the Florida State League, where he was 1-0 and did not allow a run in five innings. "I have been throwing the ball pretty good," Mackintosh said. "I am trying to get back to where I was." He was 0-0, 2.76 for Reading in 11 games in 2008 after he was picked up by Philadelphia. A lefty who turns 29 in July, Mackintosh went as high as Triple A Tacoma in the Seattle system in 2007. His manager with Class A Wisconsin in 2004 was Roadcap, his manager with Reading. "He takes the ball and throws strikes," Roadcap said.
The Eastern League stretches north to Maine and New Hampshire, west to Ohio and south to Maryland. Reading leads the Eastern League in attendance with an average of 5,823 fans in games through June 17.
"Reading is called Baseball Town USA. They pack it in every night," Brummett said. "It is kind of like the only game in town. Baseball is pretty big there."
Being in the Phillie system has been a bonus for Overholt. His parents, who grew up in Chicago, have relatives in the Philadelphia area and they have grown up as fans of the National League team. His older brother, Sean, who pitched at the University of Utah, in the minors with the Chicago Cubs and now works for Fidelity in Salt Lake, helped prepare him for life in the minors. Another bonus is that David Montgomery, the president/CEO of Philadelphia, catches games at Reading.
"It is just good to know that. If you do well it keeps your name in their head," Overholt said.