May 15, 2014
Scouting Steve Tolleson as a Pitcher
Steve Tolleson is not flashy. A utility infielder who’s spent (small) parts of three seasons in the majors, he’s just trying to make himself useful. “Player for the Toronto Blue Jays and proud father and husband. Blessed more than I deserve,” is his Twitter self-description.
He was able to do that last night with a brief pitching appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays, who were routed by the Indians. Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan’s outing was short, but not absurdly so—four full innings. The trouble really came in the late innings, when Marcus Stroman and Neil Wagner worked a combined 2.2 innings. They surrendered 10 earned runs and threw 79 pitches. So, with one out to go in the ninth, John Gibbons summoned Tolleson. It was reminiscent of Joe Girardi’s use of Alberto Gonzales last year.
Tolleson’s outing lasted only four pitches—a first-pitch double by Lonnie Chisenhall, and then a popup by Mike Aviles. That’s not really enough of a sample to grade him like we normally would in our position player pitcher scouting series, but we can conclude a few things about Tolleson’s approach to pitching. When it comes to acting like a real pitcher, it appears he is closer to the Joe Inglett end of the spectrum than the Mitch Moreland end. His “fastball” was about 76 mph, and there was no time to bring out a secondary pitch. He did locate the fastball pretty well.
Tolleson’s throwing motion was simple and low-octane, with no torque but excellent posture. He also threw from two different spots on the mound, corresponding to the side of the plate on which the hitter was standing.
That excellent posture gave him a fairly low arm angle, which in turn gave his fastball kind of a funky spin. Combined with the slower speed of the pitch, it had a diving movement similar to what you’d find on a really good changeup.
Not that Tolleson was trying to make too much of it.
“[Wagner] was battling out there, so if I could save him a few pitches to help him get ready for his next appearance, then that's what the team needed. … It's one of those unique opportunities that I'll be thankful for when I'm old and grey one day, but it's unfortunate it happened the way it did,” he said after the game.
All in a day’s work, Steve.