AREA HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS IN PRO BALL
Name Org. HS College drafted Pos. 2011 Org. 2011 Cl 2011 Tm
Kyler Burke Cubs Ooltewah 2006/1st OF/1B Cubs A Boise, Idaho
Blake McDade Rockies Ooltewah MTSU 2010/20th 1B Rockies A Pasco, Wash.
Wes Hodges Indians Baylor Ga. Tech 2006/2nd 1B/3B Giants AA Richmond
Tyler Massey Rockies Baylor 2008/14th OF/1B Rockies A Pasco, Wash.
Cory Gearrin Braves Rhea County Mercer 2007/4th RP/Cl Braves MLB Atlanta
Kyle Heckathorn Brewers Ringgold 2009/1st P Brewers A Brevard
Cole Brand Cardinals Bradley none FA RP Cardinals Rookie Glf Coast
Mitchell Boggs Cardinals Dalton Georgia 2005/5th RP Cardinals MLB Red Birds
Ryan Casteel Rockies Bradley Cleve. St. 2010/17th DH/C Rockies A Pasco, Wash
Ryan Fraser Mets Walker Valley Memphis 2010/16th P Mets A Savannah
Charlie Culberson Giants Calhoun 2007/1st 2B Giants AA Richmond
Rashad Ramsey A's Chattooga 2010/20th OF A's Rookie Arizona
Josh Smoker Nationals Calhoun 2007/1st P Nationals A Potomac
It was less than 11 months ago that Cory Gearrin got the call for which he'd spent much of his life preparing. Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren wanted to know if he owned a suit, adding that major leaguers' travel apparel was suit-and-tie.
The former Rhea County player didn't then. Bidding for a permanent slot in the Braves' bullpen, he now owns two.
"I waited till Joseph A. Banks had a sale. Now I'm just hoping I have a reason to wear them," Gearrin said on an off day this week.
Atlanta's fourth-round pick in 2007, he has worked his way up and wound up with a handful of 2011 big-league appearances -- 18 1/3 innings over 18 games, with 25 strikeouts. He was called up on April 23 from Class AAA Gwinnett, stayed a month, went back to Gwinnett, was recalled on July 2 and stayed through July 23, finishing the season at Gwinnett.
This year was his first invitation to the big-league camp.
"I'm having fun -- playing a little baseball," he said.
Before the off day he had pitched 9 1/3 innings without giving up a run. The next day, though, he was touched for two runs, giving up two walks, a single and two sacrifice flies and unleashing two wild pitches.
"I know what happened and that's the most important thing for me -- to continue to grow as a pitcher and continue to pitch," Gearrin told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Coming off an off day, I kind of got the juices going a little bit. I just need to stay within myself and make pitches instead of trying to overdo."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn't overly concerned, telling O'Brien, "Great spring so far. He just got a little ahead of himself and walked two guys."
Gearrin is working for one of two remaining bullpen spots with Atlanta but had another rough day Thursday, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
"I don't know. I hope I will be on the team opening day," he said.
His "cups of coffee" a season ago offered valuable lessons.
"I had to learn a lesson from all the going up and down," he said. "You get caught up in wanting to stay in the big leagues, but my goal is to show up every day and do better and have fun."
A groundball/strikeout specialist, Gearrin said he benefited greatly from time spent recently with former Braves closer Gene Garber, the man who ended Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak back in 1978.
Garber, a sidearm/near-submarine pitcher, has retained a wealth of knowledge and Gearrin pulled all he could in Garber's weeklong stay in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where the Braves hold spring training.
"He had a lot to offer, especially for me because we pitch a similar game," Gearrin said. "He was here for a week and didn't miss a pitch. He'd be sitting beside me and the entire time was asking, 'What would you have done?' in every situation. He is at another level of looking at the game.
"I am constantly trying to learn, but something Gene drove home was beyond executing pitches. He talked about attacking individual hitters, knowing yourself, how to get the most from your pitches and how to get guys out."
In the offseason, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell suggested that Gearrin work on his changeup to complement his fastball and slider. As he did so, and from working with Garber, he has dropped down even more on his sidearm delivery.
"I haven't intentionally changed my mechanics, but I'm more comfortable with what I'm doing," Gearrin said. "I didn't throw the changeup very much last year, and part of it was comfort. I didn't have a lot of confidence in it, so coming into camp I wanted to throw it a lot. It's a smooth easy motion, but I think I'm getting it down a little more. You focus on getting that sink and changing speeds."
His main goal, though, is to make the big-league team.
"You want to give them more reasons to keep you around," he said. "My goal every day is, one, to understand what I need to do physically and then set myself up for the next day and the day after that. I want to be better at the end of the day than when I got up and strive to do the same thing the next day."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...