The goal of the minor leagues is to develop a player’s game for future success at higher levels. By doing this a player continues to show their value to their organization without becoming complacent. While this might seem like a simple concept it’s much harder than people realize as many players fall short of their dream of playing in the big leagues. But with the right mindset and work ethic one can definitely achieve this lofty goal. Focused on that goal this past off-season, left-handed pitcher Tim Mayza reported to spring camp with one destination on mind and that was to make it to Lansing so he could see what a full season schedule was like first hand.
“It’s nice getting to come to Lansing to play a full season,” stated Mayza. “When you get here you quickly realize this is what professional baseball is all about from the living arrangement to the crowds at the stadium and playing every day. There’s really a professional baseball atmosphere in Lansing.”
Obviously, understanding the daily demands of playing from early spring to late fall is something the prospect will need to know as he continues to climb the ladder with hopes of playing in the big leagues one day.
Initially joining the Lansing Lugnuts as a member of their opening day roster, Mayza spent the entire first series with the ball club before heading back to extended spring training for a month. While this might discourage some players, Mayza took the assignment in stride as it gave him an opportunity to fine-tune his game some more.
“In extended I was working on my consistency,” explained Mayza. “I was working on my off-speed pitches. I was trying to get more consistent with my breaking ball and I was trying to become a more well-rounded pitcher.”
This extra preparation has shown in the early stages of his 2015 season as Mayza is one of the most intriguing prospects in the Lugnuts bullpen. Currently sporting career bests in ERA with a 3.97 mark, opponent batting average at .267, and WHIP at 1.63; Mayza is still working on his command. However, he is continuing to show the promise that Blue Jays scouts saw in him when they encouraged the organization to select him two years ago.
One of the major factors to Mayza’s current success is his ability to develop more pitches, so he’ll have a better opportunity to keep hitters off-balanced in certain counts. This past off-season, Mayza began developing a changeup to compliment his other pitches.
“My changeup is a work-in-progress,” explained Mayza. “I use my slider more as it’s more developed. When I go out there I usually use a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, and occasional changeup.”
Although his changeup hasn’t been put on display too much in the early stages of his 2015 season, Mayza feels some comfort knowing it’s there if he needs another option to keep hitters guessing at any point of the game.
“I want to develop a fourth pitch to help me have more options in certain situations,” Mayza added. “Obviously a fourth pitch would help me keep hitters off-balanced. When you only throw three, hitters have a better idea of what you’re going to throw in certain counts, so I want that option to keep hitters guessing more and put a crinkle in their minds.”
Another reason you haven’t seen a lot of his changeup is the fact that Mayza has an excellent heavy fastball that allows him to get ahead in counts easily. Consistently hitting around 95 miles per hour in the month of June, it’s obvious why the organization is very high on this promising young southpaw.
Impressed with the development that Mayza has made this season in the Midwest League, Lansing Lugnuts’ pitching coach Jeff Ware is happy with the progression the young prospect has made from spring until now.
“Tim Mayza is throwing strikes this year,” stated Ware. “Tim had a great spring training and unfortunately when we got here at the beginning of the year we needed to make some room on the roster and he was that guy. Tim wasn’t sent down because of anything he did. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I’m glad to see him back with our club. He did a tremendous job when he was sent down and we’re looking for the same things here in Lansing. He’s got really good stuff. Tim has a heavy fastball. It’s almost like he’s throwing a bowling ball out there.”
Mayza has nothing but respect for the way Ware handles his business both on-and-off the field and is equally appreciative for the time Jeff Ware has invested in his career to date.
“Jeff Ware is good. I have really enjoyed my time working with him,” said Mayza. “Jeff has a lot of knowledge that I can definitely take advantage of and learn from his experiences. With that said, Jeff isn’t here to babysit you. He’s very professional and he lets you know that your career is in your hands.”
Originally joining the organization in the 12th round of the 2013 draft out of Millersville University in Pennsylvania, Mayza remembers his draft experience like it was yesterday as he received a lot of love and support from the people that he’s closest too.
“Being drafted by the Blue Jays was exciting. Coming from a small town where not many people get an opportunity to play professionally. It was very exciting,” said Mayza. “My teammates and family were very proud of me.”
Selected after a junior season which saw the 6’3 lefty go 11-3 with a 1.55 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings of work; Mayza was faced with a tough decision on whether to go pro, or return for his senior season at Millersville.
Although it was tough to leave his teammates, Mayza knew he was well-prepared for the challenges of playing professional baseball. Learning first-hand from his head coach Jon Shehan, a former Atlanta Braves minor leaguer, on what the next step was going to be like for him.
“My coach Jon Shehan was a professional catcher. He didn’t make it to the big leagues. But he knew what being drafted was all about,” explained Mayza. “My college experience really helped me grow from a high school player that was under-the-radar to a professional level pitcher. It was a great experience all around.”
Be sure to follow Tim Mayza as he continues to fine-tune his game for future success at higher levels of play.