The Washington Nationals are one of the most exciting young teams in baseball, featuring the likes of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. They made an early exit from last year’s playoffs, but are resolved to do even better this season, as they have accumulated one of the most stacked rosters in the majors. Although they are deep at most positions, especially pitching, they continue to cultivate a fine crop of prospects who may be able to contribute them at any time if the need should arise. Pitcher Ryan Tatusko is about to enter his seventh professional season and is hoping that he will be among the first players considered in 2013 if the big league team needs any help.
Tatusko, a slender right-hander, was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 18th round of the 2007 draft out of Indiana State University.
He began his career as a starter, and made slow progress until 2010, when he went 9-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 24 games (13 starts) at Double-A. By that time his prospect star had risen to the point that he was part of the trade that sent him and fellow pitching prospect Tanner Roark to Washington in exchange for veteran infielder Cristian Guzman.
Since the trade, Tatusko has transitioned to a reliever and spot starter. His arsenal includes a low-90s fastball with a lot of movement, a curve and changeup.
He reached Triple-A in 2011, but spent all of last season in Double-A, going 4-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 27 games (eight starts). He has averaged 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings throughout his career. One of his best attributes may be his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he has allowed just 33 home runs in 604.1 professional innings.
There is no doubt that Tatusko is ready to take the next step and try his hand at pitching in the majors. All he needs now is an opportunity, which he hopes comes as soon as this season.
Ryan Tatusko Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: I really didn’t have a favorite team, but as I kid I idolized Nolan Ryan. It just seemed to me that he always had total control of the game from start to finish. I was always amazed that he could pitch like the way he did into his 40s. I also loved Nolan because he was not a command pitcher; he came at you with everything he had, and if he walked you, so be it, but he would just attack the next guy. Not many people know that Nolan is also the all-time walks leader, and he has it by a considerable margin, so I loved watching him because he worked out of jams and always seemed to come out unscathed. He was just an electrifying pitcher to watch.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: The draft experience was a realization of a dream. I kind of had a notion that I was going to be taken, but I didn’t quite know when. I was actually watching the computer screen and listening to it with my mom. My dad was working, so when my name got called in the 18th round, I called him immediately; it was a very intimate experience. I am very fortunate to be blessed with this experience, and I hope I can continue to play for many more years to come.
Can you describe what it was like being part of the Cristian Guzman trade in 2010 and what kind of assistance did you get in getting resettled?: I honestly didn’t know what to think when I first heard it. I mean obviously I was doing something right to catch the attention of a team and they wanted me. Knowing a team chose me from all the other minor leaguers that the Rangers had was an incredible feeling. I loved my time with the Rangers and I made a lot of friends, but I absolutely love the Nationals organization.
The biggest transition was from AL to NL because now there is no DH, so a lot more pitching changes are being made and it’s a different baseball game. Being in the bullpen, it gives me more opportunities to pitch, so I always have to remain ready because there are so many different situations that can be thrown your way.
The Nationals made the transition very smooth. When Tanner Roark and I first arrived the Double-A Harrisburg team made us feel extremely comfortable and two guys let us move in with them right away, so that helped out a lot! As soon as Roark and I got to Harrisburg we weren’t treated any differently, we were thrown in the mix and expected to perform just like we had been all year, which I really liked. The transition was about as smooth as it could have gone!
Can you talk a little bit about any differences in organizational approach between Washington and Texas when it comes to instructing their minor league pitchers?: I think all organizations are the same when it comes to approaching their pitchers. If things are working, then don’t fix it! When you get to the professional level, people got there and are doing things pretty much correctly or else they wouldn’t have gotten there. The organizational pitching coaches and rovers will make suggestions to you, but ultimately it is your career and it is up too you to make the adjustment or not. They are all just trying to help you advance, but it’s up to the individual player to be able to mold it to what they are doing or to accept it or not.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: I think my strongest pitch is my fastball. I am very blessed with a natural four-seam that sinks and cuts depending on the corner of the plate I am throwing it to. A lot of the times I will let it go down the middle of the plate and just let it do what it does, and it works for me. I would say my weakest pitch is my changeup; it just seems to have a mind of its own. Some days it’s working for me and I have all the confidence in the world in it, but then other days it’s flat as can be and it gets me in jams.
What is the anticipation like, being so close to the major leagues now, but not having gotten the call-up yet?: You definitely feel it, and obviously every kid growing up wants just one shot at the major leagues, and I am no different. It’s hard not to think about being so close, but if you get caught up in being that close then it can consume you, and if you don’t go out on the mound and get people out then you can very easily be not as close (haha). Sometimes you get caught up in thinking what if, but for the most part you have to just do what you’ve always done and pray for the best outcome.
Can you talk a little bit about your frame of mind when you were playing in Venezuela last offseason when Wilson Ramos was kidnapped?: To be honest, I never felt insecure. The Margarita Bravos did a first class job taking care of myself, my girlfriend, and my other American teammates. We always had bodyguards around us if the team even had a second thought about where we were going to eat or if the crowd might get too hostile. I never really saw them have to go into action, but there were times where we weren’t allowed to go down certain streets or leave a certain hotel after nightfall just for security purposes. I absolutely loved playing down there and I would go back in a heartbeat if a team asked me to come play again next year.
Is it being difficult trying to make your mark in an organization with such high profile prospects (Strasburg, Harper, etc…) in recent years?: The Strasburgs and Harpers don’t come around very often. Those are one of kind baseball players, but for every one of them there are 1,000 people just like me struggling to make it. Watching guys like Harper and Strasburg do what they do best, you can see why they have the distinction of being in a class of their own; they are really just that good! But I think having high-profile guys like that does nothing but good things for the Nationals and the organization as a whole. The Nationals aren’t in the highest profile market like Chicago, Boston or New York, so any time there can be some limelight on our organization for whatever reason I think it can do nothing but benefit everybody.