11/03/10 8:01 PM ET
Jays' Rzepczynski enjoying Arizona success
Major League veteran has allowed two earned runs in four starts
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
"They ask me what it's like to be up in the Majors, it's been fun to just help them," he said. "We have a lot of young guys and some good arms coming up. So we'll talk and I've been telling them what it takes to get here."
Actions also speak louder, as they say, and Rzepczynski -- the reigning Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Week -- has served as quite the mentor in that regard. He turned in his fourth straight strong start Wednesday, allowing three hits over six shutout innings, as the Javelinas coasted past the Mesa Solar Sox, 11-2.
"I felt like I did pretty well," he said. "I'm trying to go out and throw my fastball for strikes, get some quick outs and quick innings and not get my pitch count too high."
Thanks to three timely double plays, Rzepczynski was very efficient, throwing only 62 pitches -- 41 for strikes -- while fanning three and walking one. He has allowed only two earned runs over 20 innings for Peoria.
"That's the key for me, that's the reason they sent me here," Rzepczynski said. "I need to get ahead and learn and work on my fastball command, throw my sinker in the zone and get quick outs."
The Jays also sent the former fifth-round pick to the AFL to get in some more innings after he broke a finger on his pitching hand during Spring Training. He began the year with Triple-A Las Vegas and made a dozen starts before going 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 12 outings for Toronto. Much of his success came in September, when he won three starts and compiled a 2.86 ERA.
"I got hurt, I missed about six weeks, and I had only 130 innings and they wanted me to get to 170 innings, so they're sending me here to get my innings up," he explained. "And working on throwing the fastball more for strikes, those are the two main things I'm trying to do."
The Jays hinted earlier this month that Rzepczynski's role may change next season, depending on how the roster fills out. With top prospect Kyle Drabek set to compete for a rotation spot, Toronto may look to use Rzepczynski out of the bullpen. He said he'd prefer to start but is open to whatever the organization has planned.
"They sent me here to start, so next year we'll see how Spring Training goes," he said. "If they put me in the bullpen, then they put me in the bullpen, but I'd like to start. They sent me here to be a starter, so I'm just working toward that for spring."
Rzepczynski used a double play to escape the opening inning before Peoria handed him a three-run cushion in the bottom of the first. The Javs tacked on a run in the fourth and six in the sixth.
Although he allowed only three hits, Rzepczynski pitched with runners on base in almost every inning -- his only 1-2-3 frame was the fourth. An error and a hit batter put two on for Mesa in the second, but Rzepczynski got Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets) to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
The California native worked around a leadoff single in the third and a walk and his second wild pitch in the fifth before getting a third double play to get through the sixth.
"It was just one of those things. Errors happen and I was overthrowing on a couple of pitches when I hit the guy," Rzepczynski said. "But I went back out, tried to get my sinker over, and when I do that, I know I'm one pitch away from ending the inning. I just had to get back to what I was doing, get in the zone, hopefully get it on the ground."
He yielded one run over six innings in his previous start on Oct. 28 after going four frames in each of his first two outings. He lowered his ERA to 0.90 on Wednesday.
With 25 big league games under his belt over the last two seasons, Rzepcyznski certainly is one of the AFL's veterans. He said he's enjoying the simplicity of the Fall League.
"It's good to see the guys I played with in the Minors," he said. "This is a good league -- you're home every night, you can get your work done early and get out. It's been a great experience, all the guys are cool."
One teammate, however, may eclipse him in terms of seniority. Adam Loewen, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2002, spent three years in the Majors as a starting pitcher. He's been rebuilding his career as an outfielder with the Blue Jays and earned Eastern League All-Star honors this summer.
"We've just talked about hitting, although I know Adam was a power lefty in the Majors, but I've been talking to him about making that transition," Rzepczynski said.
He's not looking to make a similar move, though.
"I give him a lot of credit," he laughed. "I know I couldn't do it."
NOTES: Eight of Peoria's nine starters got at least one hit, with Astros first baseman Koby Clemens leading the way with three knocks and a pair of runs scored. ... Former first-rounder Dustin Ackley, batting .400, doubled and walked twice, while fellow Mariners prospect Nate Tenbrink jump-started his AFL stint with two hits and three RBIs. ... Loewen hit third, scored three times and knocked in a pair of runs. ...Pirates farmhands Jordy Mercer and Andrew Lambo plated Mesa's runs in the eighth. The Sox were held to eight hits. ... Bucs lefty Justin Wilson started for Mesa and was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on three hits and two walks over three frames. ...Former Mets first-round pick Brad Holt pitched the fourth, surrendering a run on three hits and a walk. ... Another Pittsburgh prospect, Brian Leach, walked four in one frame.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.