Barrett Loux Happy To Get Chance To Prove He's Healthy
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.—Last summer, all righthander Barret Loux could do was watch, as his dream of playing professional baseball crumbled in front of him.
What a difference a year makes. Playing now for a team other than the one that drafted him in the first round, Loux was proving himself through his performance at Myrtle Beach (8-5, 3.57).
Loux's circuitous path to pro ball actually started in the 2007 draft, when the Tigers took him in the 24th round out of Stratford (Texas) High. He passed up an $800,000 signing bonus offer and instead headed to College Station to play for Texas A&M. In high school he had encountered some shoulder troubles, but by the time he arrived on campus he thought they were a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case.
"I had a shoulder issue in high school and I got it fixed up, came back throwing harder than ever." Loux said. "My elbow bothered me all through my career until I realized I had a bone spur in there, and I got it taken out and it's been fine ever since."
Loux had surgery to remove the bone spur after his sophomore season, and he came back in 2010 to have a banner year, earning third-team All-America honors. His 11-2, 2.83 campaign caught the eye of the Diamondbacks, who picked Loux sixth overall in part because he agreed to a below-slot bonus of $2 million.
But Loux would never sign with Arizona—or rather, Arizona wouldn't sign Loux. The Diamondbacks said Loux did not pass a postdraft physical, citing fraying in his rotator cuff and elbow issues as the reasons. They decided not to sign him at all, taking a compensation pick in the 2011 draft instead. The commissioner's office, recognizing the unusual circumstances, declared Loux a free agent.
"I was relieved because I had a place to go," Loux said. "I didn't really know what was going to happen if that didn't work out, but it did and I was pretty excited about."
Proving Himself All Over
Back at square one, Loux started throwing again to get his arm back in shape. That included a one-week stint in the Cape Cod League, where he tossed bullpen sessions. On Nov. 19, the Rangers gave Loux a place to play, signing him for $312,000. He never had any kind of surgery, coming to spring training in March before being assigned to Myrtle Beach.
"I think it was a little bit of a relief for him to be able to put all that behind him and just get on with things." Myrtle Beach pitching coach Brad Holman said. "I think it was refreshing for him to get started and get going. I think from how he was when he first got here—he was kind of unsure of things and what to expect—he melded right in."
Though Loux's situation is unusual, other players have suffered similar fates, as when the Rangers discovered their 1996 first-round pick, R.A. Dickey, was born without an ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Dickey, like Loux, lost a considerable amount of money due to the injury, but the trouble in his arm was not a death sentence for his career, as he is now pitching for the Mets.
It looks as though Loux's career won't be railroaded by his injuries, either.
He showed up in Myrtle Beach with mid- to low-90s heat on his two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider, curveball and changeup. Holman said that Loux touches 96 but prefers to pitch around 92-93. Those pitches have propelled him to the top of the league in strikeouts, with 125 in 106 innings. Catcher Vinny DeFazio has the best seat in the house to watch Loux use his repertoire, and he likes what he is seeing.
"Barret is pretty polished for his first year of pro ball," DeFazio said. "He keeps the ball down; that's the most important thing with Barret. He'll spike the fastball every once in a while, but that's because he so convicted on getting the ball down, staying down. He gets that downward plane using his height well, and he really knows how to keep that fastball down. When they start trying to get on the fastball, that's when he starts somebody off with a curveball for a strike or gets an overaggressive swinger on a changeup or a slider in the dirt. He knows what he's doing out there."
His slider has been the better of his two breaking balls this season. He describes his curveball as a "get me over" pitch, especially as he uses it later in the game.
"Lately it's been the slider as his predominant put away pitch," Holman said. "He uses his changeup more to get himself back into counts and as a contact tool. His curveball is more 'show-me;' it's a good curveball, but the strike-ability of that pitch isn't as easy for him right now as the other pitches. Though there are days where it all of a sudden shows up."
Holman said Loux has all the tools, and they're fine-tuning his delivery and finding an approach that he can repeat every pitch.
And his health? That hasn't been an issue.
"I can just speak from what I've seen this year," Holman said. "He hasn't missed a bullpen, he hasn't complained of soreness—he's been on a consistent throwing program—he long tosses, he does everything everybody else does, and quite honestly you hear a lot less from him regarding minor aches and pains than you do form the majority of the guys."
Holman said he thinks the Rangers are lucky to have Loux, and DeFazio agreed, adding that Loux goes as hard as he can and shows strong commitment to his work. That commitment is obvious in Loux's attitude.
"I learned to realize that I can't take things for granted." Loux said. "Playing baseball for a living is a gift and I'm happy to get to play."