Cleveland Indians reliever Nick Hagadone did not make the 25-man roster out of spring training, and spent the first two months of the regular season honing his skills with the Columbus Clippers in Triple A.
But that lasted only so long, as the Indians recently recalled Hagadone to get another left-handed reliever in the bullpen. Now that he is back up with the Indians, he has the confidence of Indians manager Terry Francona and is ready to embrace any challenge that comes his way.
"It's huge knowing that Tito is willing to put me in any situation like that," Hagadone said after earning the victory over the Boston Red Sox Tuesday. "It's huge for my confidence and just gives me more to go out there."
Hagadone allowed one hit, and struck out three Red Sox hitters in 1.1 innings of work against Boston, and showed the same kind of skill that made the Indians promote him from Columbus earlier in the home stand.
"That was really good," Francona said, "because on a night when we're not going to use (Bryan) Shaw, he stayed out there long enough, got the outs, went back out, got it to where Cody (Allen) could clean up an inning and then, actually go out and pitch another one because he only threw two pitches in the eighth and another nine in the ninth. That was a huge effort on Nick's part.
"Nick's gotten on a really good roll in Triple A, and we think the timing's good for him. In his last I don't know how many innings, he had 18 strikeouts and only three walks. He's on a pretty good roll, and the way Boston's situated, they're so left handed, we wanted to get a little bit more balance in the bullpen."
On Tuesday, Francona went to Hagadone with two runners on, one run already in, and only one out in the top of seventh inning. However, the former Red Sox draft pick struck out catcher A.J. Pierzynski and outfielder Alex Hassan swinging to end the threat and keep the game at a 3-3 tie.
"I think the biggest thing is just focusing on the task at hand, staying in the moment, thinking pitch to pitch and not worrying about the score, whether it's 10-1 or 3-3," Hagadone said. "(I'm) just going out there, concentrating and making the pitches.
"It's great. I was drafted by them, so anytime I get to pitch against them, it's exciting for me."
Hagadone believes he is better able to handle hitters at the big-league level because he spent spring training working on his mechanics and developing better control of his breaking ball with Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
"In spring training, I couldn't throw it for strikes, and the hitters knew it right out of my hand," Hagadone said. "That was one of the things with the adjustments to my mechanics that helped my breaking ball. The focus wasn't to make my breaking ball better. It just was a benefit of changing my mechanics, so it's good.
"We were working on putting some more athleticism back into my delivery and just having better direction toward the plate, and I think, overall, it is going to help my consistency and throwing strikes from outing to outing.
"It makes a huge difference in just being able to repeat it, pitch-to-pitch, outing-to-outing, and that's what makes me consistent, so it's good."
And Hagadone is not the only one who has noticed the difference in his game.
"He dealt," fellow reliever Cody Allen said. "He attacked the zone. He's got great stuff. He stayed ahead of guys, made big pitches when he had to, so that's nice to have."