The Seattle Mariners decided they needed to reshape their bullpen for the 2018 season. One of the first moves they made was to acquire Nick Rumbelow from the New York Yankees in November in a trade for two minor leaguers.
However, Rumbelow, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2013 from LSU by the Yankees, experienced an injury in his first spring training game to his brachial plexus. It involves the network of nerves that sends signals to his shoulder, arm and hand, and he was placed on the disabled list until June.
“I was feeling like I was being pulled down on the right (pitching) side,” he said. “I was coming off Tommy John (surgery in 2016), and I wanted to show that I was a guy who could throw long and throw often, and that just wasn't what was happening.”
Rumbelow, who throws a 96 mph fastball and has a good changeup and curveball, came off the disabled list on June 14. After three appearances, he was called up to Seattle.
He allowed five home runs in eight appearances, including two in the sixth inning on July 12 against the Las Angeles Angels, and was sent back down to Tacoma.
“I was leaving balls up in the (strike) zone, especially off-speed,” he said. “I think four of the home runs were probably on curveballs.”
Rainiers pitching coach Lance Painter said a big part of Rumbelow's giving up long balls was that he didn't have a spring training and he was very eager, which caused him to overthrow.
“He was starting to arch his backside versus staying over the front part of his feet,” Painter said. “His hips were opening up too early, and he had nothing to help his arm, which messes up your command.”
Rumbelow has had three outings since coming back from Seattle. He gave up his first home run in three minor league games against Reno on July 18, but allowed no runs and two hits in his other two appearances.
Painter said the curveball is down in the zone now and tight. He expects that Rumbelow will be with the Mariners soon.
“There are times when I have a hard time seeing that it's a breaking ball, because it starts out low and it's got that tightness and late drop, almost like a split-finger (fastball),” Painter said. “The times he gets in trouble is when he tries to overpower it. That's when he starts popping it up.”
Rumbelow, who made it the major leagues with New York in 2015 after less than two years in the minors, said he's feeling better, he's happy, that things are on the up. He's encouraged by last season with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre' in which he had an 0.62 ERA in 17 games.
“I've got all three pitches working now,” he said. “Constant reps have fine-tuned me. I still feel I will pitch in the big leagues for a while.
“I went to LSU, which is a big program. Coming in as a freshman, there were building blocks along the way that have allowed me to handle situations of this nature continually. This is just a page in my book, not a chapter.”
Rumbelow played on the Tigers' 2013 team that went to College World Series. That pitching staff also had Philadelphia Phillies star Aaron Nola, Ryan Eades and Joe Broussard, all of whom are in pro baseball. Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, this year's All-Star MVP, also was on that team.
“I got to room with Aaron my junior year,” Rumbelow said. “He's in the Cy Young Award race. To get to be around a guy like that, see what his makeup is about is just invaluable. He's such a gamer, just his ability to compete, to focus, to lock it in when it comes to the field are just characteristics of highly successful people.”