DETROITAs a reliever with three legitimate pitches, righthander Mark Ecker is rare. But at times in his young pro career, his fastball has been enough to carry him.
Ecker, a fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M in June, recorded stellar numbers for short-season Connecticut. In 11 games in the New York-Penn League, the 21-year-old went 2-0, 0.50 with a 0.56 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Farm director Dave Owen saw Ecker during a recent outing. He liked what he saw, even though what he saw was mostly fastballs.
“The other night, he came in and really, even though I enjoyed getting to see him pitch, he just dominated so much with his fastball,” Owen said. “He threw one slider and one changeup. So it’ll be fun as we watch him grow and develop over the next few years.”
Ecker sits at 93-96 mph, but he has an effective changeup and slider in his arsenal. The Tigers promoted him to low Class A West Michigan on Aug. 12.
“They’re both going to be behind his fastball right now,” Owen said. “As things go on and he gets further into pro ball, we’ll make sure he mixes his other pitches where they can develop as well.”
Ecker spent his entire career at Texas A&M as a reliever and is pitching out of the bullpen in his first stretch as a professional. But his ability to throw three pitches has led some to believe that he could one day be a starter.
That doesn’t seem to be part of the master plan the Tigers have in place, but Owen said a switch to the rotation is possible.
“Right now, we’re probably going to leave him in the bullpen,” he said. “You can always throw (starting) into the arena with him having three pitches. We’ll just see how it goes.”
But right now, he’s pitching well out of the bullpen. Through 13 appearances, he had recorded an 0.44 ERA with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 21 innings.
“It’s a small sample size,” Owen said, “but he’s off to a very good start.”
Double-A Erie outfielder Anthony Gose went 11-for-21 with three home runs, six RBIs and seven runs scored during a five-game stretch in early August.
Reliever Joe Jimenez got off to a good start after being promoted to Triple-A Toledo. He started the season at high Class A Lakeland and has moved quickly up the ladder.