Sean Reid-Foley is rather blunt in his description of how he started out the season with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
“Ran into a concrete wall that didn’t really break,” the right-hander says rather matter-of-factly about his first six outings of the year, when he managed only 15 innings, allowing 14 runs, all but one earned, on 22 hits and 14 walks with 16 strikeouts.
Hence the splat right into the metaphorical obstacle, and a mess the Toronto Blue Jays prospect has been cleaning up since. To his credit, after lasting only two-thirds of an inning May 4 versus Binghamton, Reid-Foley has steadily and methodically corrected, rescuing a season that could have easily been lost. Beginning May 10 against Hartford, when he threw five innings of one-run ball and struck out seven, he ran off a stretch of 16 starts in which he posted 3.90 ERA in 92.1 innings, with 79 strikeouts.
A two-start blip followed – Erie got him for seven runs in two innings, while he allowed six in 5.1 versus Altoona – before he threw seven innings of three-run ball against Hartford on Thursday (he faced two batters in the eighth, and they both reached and eventually scored), keeping a small slide at just that.
“The first month taught me a lot and it will for sure help me in the long run if I ever run into that, whether it’s next year or the year after that or, let’s say in the big-leagues,” Reid-Foley says during a recent interview. “I know what I have to do to get back on track so it’s not a crazy time again like it was this year.”
In that sense, the adversity may end up serving the second-round pick in 2014 far better in the long run than a season of wire-to-wire success. Reid-Foley – who turns 22 on Aug. 30 and was considered close to the big-leagues by some observers back in the spring – had never before endured such a period of struggle as he did in April, and it took time for him to learn to cope and adjust.
Fisher Cats pitching coach Vince Horsman was among those to help him through the challenges, talking him through tendencies to nitpick at his mechanics and trying to be too fine on the mound rather than pitching with his trademark aggressiveness.
“Really, at the turning point of it all, after one of my worst outings when I only made it two-thirds of an inning (May 4), Vince looked at me after the second or third inning and says, ‘What do you want to talk about?’ And I said, ‘Nothing dude. Who cares? It’s done. Figure it out tomorrow.’ And he goes, ‘All right, cool,’” Reid-Foley recalls. “And then it just turned around, and I got back to having fun. He knew I wasn’t having fun that first month, he knew that wasn’t me.
“I got away from who I am and it definitely showed.”
The pitcher he is often is described by one word: competitor. Born in Guam, where his father was stationed with the Coast Guard at the time, and raised in Florida, Reid-Foley always played sports with his brother David, four years his senior, and his friends, taking a beating in the process.
“I love to compete,” he says. “You’ve got to grow up fast being around all those big guys. I never wanted to lose with them. Nine times out of 10 I did, but that’s how you get better.”
Next steps for Reid-Foley to keep getting better include improving the consistency of his command of a fastball that can be dominant, and developing his secondary pitches, particularly a changeup to complement his curveball and slider, one of which is typically on during his outings.
He’s also carried over gains in his routine and off-day work practices, and built upon them.
“I just try to be consistent, whether that’s with myself, away from the field, at the field, especially being the same person day in and day out with my teammates,” Reid-Foley says. “Obviously having success is a lot better than having failure. I just made sure it wasn’t, ‘Oh he pitched good today, you can tell,’ or ‘Oh he pitched bad today, you can tell.’ I wanted to stay even-keeled and just be me, a good guy in the clubhouse and a competitor on the mound, no matter what’s going on.”
What’s going on is that Reid-Foley hasn’t had the season he expected or hoped for, but in keeping his campaign from totally slipping away and finding ways to adjust midstream he may have equipped himself much better for the long run.
“Day to day me and Vince would talk, but it was never 20 things, it was always one thing: repeat your delivery and get over the baseball,” says Reid-Foley. “Once we started doing that we started adding other stuff. If I could have gotten out of it in three weeks, a lot better. But it took me about six weeks to get out of it. I just knew when it was all said and done I was going to get better this year, because it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
Notes: An under-the-radar name to keep an eye on: right-hander Carlos Ramirez. The converted outfielder has been dominant at double-A New Hampshire and now Buffalo, allowing only two unearned runs in 33.2 innings with 39 strikeouts in 23 games across two levels. Word is his fastball is good, and his slider is better. … Lefty Brett Anderson threw 5.1 innings of one-hit shutout in his second outing for the Bisons in Thursday’s 8-3 win, walking two with two strikeouts while throwing 71 pitches.
Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B/DH
Acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 463 PA | 6 HR | .222/.289/.336 | 40 BB | 90 K
Danny Jansen, 22, C
Acquired: 16th round, 2013 draft
Season to date (three levels): 398 PA | 10 HR | .339/.414/.510 | 38 BB | 36 K
Dwight Smith Jr., 24, OF
Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft
Season to date: 409 PA | 8 HR | .273/.346/.399| 40 BB | 63 K
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher-Cats
Notes: Left-hander Ryan Borucki allowed four runs in consecutive starts before bouncing back with six innings of two-run ball versus Altoona. His ERA through six starts at New Hampshire is 2.29. … Catcher Reese McGuire earned Eastern League player of the week honours after going 8-for-15 with three homers in four games.
Anthony Alford, 22, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date (two levels): 281 PA | 5 HR | .301/.396/.418 | 32 BB | 49 K
Reese McGuire, 22, C
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date (three levels): 146 PA | 5 HR | .312/.382/.504 | 16 BB | 18 K
Harold Ramirez, 22, OF
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 445 PA | 6 HR | .262/.314/.360 | 27 BB | 62 K
Richard Urena, 21, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Season to date: 513 PA | 5 HR | .246/.286/.361 | 28 BB | 95 K
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 23, 2B/SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date (two levels): 209 PA | 4 HR | .232/.268/.340 | 9 BB | 35 K
Conner Greene, 22, pitcher
Acquired: 7th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 5.35 ERA | 119.1 IP | 76 BB | 85 K
Jon Harris, 23, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 5.48 ERA | 129.2 IP | 46 BB | 99 K
Sean Reid Foley, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 5.18 ERA | 114.2 IP | 48 BB | 100 K
Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays
Notes: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues to roll, earning Florida State League player of the week honours after batting .462 with three homers and 11 RBI in seven games. … Bo Bichette returned to the lineup Wednesday with two hits and two RBI after rolling his right ankle at first base Aug. 13.
Max Pentecost, 24, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date (two levels): 316 PA | 9 HR | .274/.330/.431 | 23 BB | 62 K
Bo Bichette, 19, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date (two levels): 460 PA | 12 HR | .372/.433/.568 | 38 BB | 72 K
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 18, 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date (two levels): 486 PA | 11 HR | .319/.422/.478 | 69 BB | 58 K
T.J. Zeuch, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date (two levels): 3.99 ERA | 58.2 IP | 17 BB | 45K
Low-A Lansing Lugnuts
Notes: Even though he was promoted back on July 10, Bichette was still named the Midwest League’s MVP and prospect of the year after batting .384/.448/.623 with 10 homers and 51 RBI in 70 games. … Left-fielder Nick Sinay was hit by a pitch for the 37th time this season Aug. 21, breaking the league record set by Clinton’s Jonathan Greene in 2008. He was hit for the 38th time the next day, ending a run of four straight games in which he was hit.
Justin Maese, 20, pitcher
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 draft
Season to date (two levels): 5.87 ERA | 79.2 IP | 27 BB | 69 K