Erasmus using ABL lessons on road to Boston
Bandits reliever striving for Opening Day spot in High A
By Alexis Brudnicki / ABL
FORT MYERS, Fla., 27 March – Justin Erasmus is ready.
As he makes his way out of the bullpen in the late innings of a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays, he’s ready to face his opponents.
Returning from minor injuries both in the Australian Baseball League season and during the pre-season in Fort Myers, he’s ready to take the mound.
Coming off an impressive campaign with the Brisbane Bandits and three fantastic seasons in the Boston Red Sox farm system, he’s ready to keep moving up the organisational ladder.
Taking the mound for the third time in spring training action, Erasmus looked ready. The first batter he faced was coincidentally another man who just finished a season in the ABL, Todd Glaesmann of the Canberra Cavalry.
The Brisbane Bandits reliever won that battle. Glaesmann was called out on strikes, walking away from the plate without an argument, knowing that Erasmus and his cutter got the best of him.
“I felt good,” Erasmus said after his third spring outing. “My first-pitch fastballs were down, I was cutting it off. I came back and found my comfort zone [after an error in the field]. I was happy, my curveball was really good, changeup was good, everything felt good, my cutter felt good.
“I’ve just got to work on staying back on the plate and driving the ball through the catcher, instead of guiding it.”
Though it was the third time on the hill for the right-hander, he considered it just his second real outing. The first time out, he was hit in his throwing shoulder with a comebacker, resulting in swelling, a small contusion and his removal from the game.
“This was my second game after I got drilled in the shoulder my first one,” Erasmus said. “This was my third game but the first one didn’t count because I got hit in the shoulder. The second game was alright. I had two broken-bat bleeders and an error and a strikeout.”
Several days removed from the incident, the righty relief pitcher feels no lingering effects.
“It’s all fine,” Erasmus said of his shoulder. “I was throwing the next day after I got hit and everything was fine. It was swollen and it hurt. It was really uncomfortable to throw but I just threw through it.”
With the injury behind him, the South African-born pitcher will keep making his case and try and earn a promotion to play for the Salem Red Sox during the upcoming season.
After two seasons of rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League and last season with short-season Greenville, Erasmus has a combined 1.68 ERA in 96 2/3 innings. In Brisbane, he posted a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings for the Bandits.
Since arriving at spring training just a week after the Bandits season ended, Erasmus has had plenty of time to continue his progression, with an early opportunity to do so around major-league camp.
The 22-year-old got to backup the big-league bullpen at Fenway South in a couple of games before minor-league matchups officially got underway. He used his time in the ‘pen wisely, watching and learning from the more experienced pitchers around him, whether he understood their methods or not.
“I was just watching [Boston Red Sox reliever Alfredo] Aceves,” Erasmus said. “He’s a very, very quirky character. He’s very, very crazy. Everything he did was, to me, it was kind of a little abnormal. But it works. [His pitches are] disgusting. I think his lifetime record is 21 wins and three losses or something.
“I was just watching him and how he throws. He threw 60 pitches out in the bullpen and then went out and pitched in his game. It works for him. He’s really good.
“So I was just talking to him, talking to the pitching coach, talking to [another Red Sox reliever] Michael Bowden who was a late guy last year. We were not really talking baseball but I was kind of seeing what good pitchers throw in certain counts and all that stuff.”
What most amazed Erasmus was just watching Boston’s right-hander warm up, though the process that the 29-year-old uses is not one that Erasmus is likely to adopt or bring back home to Brisbane.
“I watched Aceves’ routine,” he said. “It was tough to keep up because he threw 60 pitches but just the things he did I’ve never seen before. He stood on the far right side of the plate with his heel touching the right side of the plate and then threw inside. The catcher would sit in the left-handed batter’s box and he would throw all of his pitches there.
“He threw 10 there and then he would just to the complete opposite side of the plate with his toe touching the left side and the catcher would sit in the right-handed batter’s box. So he would throw across the whole plate and everything.
“It was just crazy but then when he got into the middle of the mound, everything was just spot on. I never knew that would work. I haven’t tried it. I don’t think I’m going to try it, but it was interesting to see stuff like that.”
Erasmus also got the opportunity to see and study Boston flamethrower Daniel Bard. As Bard prepared for one of his Grapefruit League starts, Erasmus continued to gain awareness and knowledge that he will apply to his own game.
“I would go and watch Daniel Bard,” Erasmus said. “His stuff is just electric. He throws like 97 [mph] and he’s got a filthy slider. So I just watch them and how they hit their spots and they never just sit down the middle. They move around more than anything and I take that into consideration.
“I move around myself but it just made me more aware of moving around. You’re not going to throw it down the middle in the game every pitch.”