Beachy coolly handles pressure in debut

Beachy coolly handles pressure in debut

PHILADELPHIA -- When Brandon Beachy left Indiana Wesleyan University to compete in the 2008 Virginia Valley Summer League, he had no reason to believe that he was just two years away from making his Major League debut as a starting pitcher in the thick of a tight pennant race.

After completing what he estimated to be five innings as a pitcher at the high school level, Beachy had served as a full-time third baseman and closer for this NAIA university located in Marion, Ind. There was little reason to believe a professional contract would await him before he had a chance to return to fulfill his plans to return for a senior season.

"It's amazing that I'm right here, putting it in perspective like that," said Beachy after producing 4 1/3 effective innings for the Braves in Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Having entered this season as a relatively unknown prospect targeted to begin the season in Double-A Mississippi's bullpen, Beachy had no reason to envision he'd end the summer with the best ERA (1.73) posted at the Minor League level this year.

Continuing the theme that has followed him over the past two years, before receiving a call Saturday at around 8 p.m. ET, Beachy had little reason to believe he was 48 hours away from making his Major League debut in front of the raucous Phillies fans, who have been known to be a little more energetic than the fans who watch games in Marion, Ind.

"It was definitely different," Beachy said. "It's louder, but I'm pretty good at focusing in and I don't recognize a lot of outside factors. There were a couple of times, I'd look up and see the towels waving. But for the most part, it was the same thing, just me and the catcher."

When Beachy arrived in Philadelphia early Sunday evening, he checked into the team's hotel with the understanding that he might need to start in place of Jair Jurrjens, who had tweaked his knee during a bullpen session Friday night.

Once Jurrjens was unable to complete a light throwing session Monday afternoon, the Braves informed Beachy that he was four hours away from facing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in what would be his first start since tossing six scoreless innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sept. 3 against Durham.

Facing a talented Charlotte club in consecutive starts in August might have seemed daunting at the time. But the experience paled in comparison to this one, which simultaneously introduced Beachy to the Major League scene and the stress of pitching in the thick of a close pennant race.

"I wouldn't want it any other way. I was excited, but at the same time trying not to be excited," Beachy said. "It was tough not knowing for the last several hours [Sunday] and today up until the point I knew I was going."

Considering the circumstances, Beachy gave the Braves everything that they could have envisioned. Battling nerves in the early innings, he allowed a pair of second-inning doubles to Howard and Carlos Ruiz. This would serve as the only run he would surrender until the fifth began with Shane Victorino slicing a three-base error off the edge of Jason Heyward's glove.

"It was definitely different. It's louder, but I'm pretty good at focusing in and I don't recognize a lot of outside factors. There were a couple of times, I'd look up and see the towels waving. But for the most part, it was the same thing, just me and the catcher."
-- Brandon Beachy, on pitching in Philadelphia

Heyward's miscue led to the two unearned runs that proved decisive for the Phillies, who now lead the Braves by four games in the National League East standings.

Asked if he could appreciate the results produced while considering the situation, Beachy said, "Maybe I will in the future, but right now, we got a loss and I didn't throw the ball the way I wanted to throw it."

Beachy might not have displayed the command that helped him combine to go 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA with Gwinnett and Mississippi this year. This could have been a product of the fact that since concluding his impressive season, he had simply been keeping his arm in shape while throwing at the Braves' Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

But Beachy did make a good first impression on manager Bobby Cox, who had only met the young hurler when the Braves welcomed the Minor League players and pitchers of the year to Turner Field earlier this month.

"I thought Brandon really did a super job and really gave us a chance to win the game," Cox said.

After hindering Beachy's cause by limiting Atlanta to one run in seven innings, Cole Hamels had some complimentary things to say about the latest addition to the Braves' rotation.

"He probably wished it was April," Hamels said. "I know if I was in a situation like this where you get your first call up and it's in a pennant race in September, it's a very tough situation. But you know what? He went out there and did a very good job. He kept his composure, and that shows what type of pitcher he's going to be. I think he's going to be a very good pitcher. He was focused."

This composure caught Braves scout Gene Kearns' eye when he saw Beachy pitching in the collegiate summer league two years ago. Kearns persuaded Beachy to erase his plans to return to college and instead spend the remainder of the 2008 season with Atlanta's Rookie Level affiliate in Danville, Va.

"It wasn't like a [Stephen] Strasburg signing or anything," Braves general manager Frank Wren jokingly said.

Beachy didn't prove overly impressive while rising from Class A Rome to Mississippi during the 2009 season. But as this summer progressed, he showed greater command and started to prove that he had started to gain a better understanding about how to pitch.

Wren noticed Beachy's impressive stats. But his interest in the surprise prospect increased when he visited the Mississippi club this summer and heard about how he had approached Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton while he was still terrorizing pitchers in the Southern League.

"Mike Stanton had terrorized [Mississippi] the first two nights," Wren said. "Beachy came in and buzzed him a couple of times inside. Then he went curveball away -- strikeout. Buzzed him, changeup -- strikeout. After that, they got a pretty good idea of how to get him out."

Given a chance to pitch on a regular basis for the first time in his life, Beachy has recognized the improvements he's made with his command and understanding of the art of pitching.

Now he can only hope for yet another opportunity to start at the Major League level. Of course, next time, he wouldn't mind the chance to have a little more time to prepare.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.