Matt Bush Showing Progress In Montgomery | The Process Report

Matt Bush Showing Progress In Montgomery

Several of the franchise’s more intriguing arms reside in Montgomery, Alabama. At the top, a pair of top-10 organizational prospects – Matt Moore and Chris Archer – anchors a rotation that also features talented pitchers like Nick Barnese and Joseph Cruz. In the bullpen, Marquis Fleming, Zach Quate, and Neil Schenk have made a successful transition from Advanced-A to the Double-A level. Joining them in the pen is perhaps the most interesting pitcher in the Rays’ system, Matt Bush.

We all know where Bush has been, so there is no need to re-hash all the details. Instead, we can pick up where we left off in spring training. One of the first cuts in March, Bush was impressive in his short time with the big league club. The right-hander tossed five innings before he was sent to minor-league camp. In those innings, he struck out five batters while flashing a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a pretty good breaking ball. On the other hand, he battled with control which is not surprising for someone receiving on-the-job training.

As a sign of confidence in Bush’s abilities, the team assigned him to Montgomery to start the 2011 season. The promotion came despite him having less than total 25 innings as a professional pitcher. A quick check of Bush’s peripheral stats suggests he is pitching as expected and maybe even a little bit better.

In 13.2 innings, the 25-year-old has struck out 17 batters. Meanwhile, he is averaging 5.27 walks per nine innings (BB/9). Despite the appearances of control issues in his BB/9, his overall walk rate is deceiving. While Bush has eight walks in 13.2 innings, three of them have been intentional. If we look at only the unintentional walks, his BB/9 drops down to a much nicer 3.40; an exact match of his strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio.  Those control rates are definitely encouraging; however, he has given up quite a few hits.

Although he has yet to allow a home run, he has given up 13 hits overall. His BABIP of .361 screams of bad luck, but one must wonder if command issues are also to blame. Even though it seems as if Bush has improved his control, we don’t know if he has improved his command – meaning throwing the ball within the strike zone, but in a good spot. Reports say Bush’s velocity is reaching the upper 90s; however, if he’s leaving the ball elevated, a 97 MPH fastball can be hit.

The biggest question mark for Bush remains health. Injuries wiped out most of his 2010 season and he underwent surgery on his right radial nerve in the offseason. So far, he appeared in nine appearances of the first 33 games for the Biscuits. As mentioned, he is being clocked in the mid-to-upper 90s.

If Bush continues to show improvements – as well as the ability to stay – on the mound, his rise through the system may be rapid. Because of his age (25) and roster status (on the 40-man roster), the Rays may choose to accelerate his path to the big leagues. As unlikely as it seemed when he signed with the organization in January 2010, Matt Bush could be a major league pitcher by seasons end.



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