UNIVERSITY PARK — How would you react if your friend won the lottery? Of course you would be happy for them, but a small part of you would also wish it was you, right?
Something similar happens in minor league baseball when teammates get called up. Sure, not every call up is lottery equivalent, but when you put in hours every day, promotions can seem invaluable.
“You want it to be yourself,” said State College Spikes’ relief pitcher Mitch Harris. “You’re happy for them, but in the same sense, because the business is like it is, you want to be that guy.”
Relief pitcher Brady Adamek was promoted to full-season Class A Peoria on Sunday. On Saturday, catcher Adam Lewis was promoted to advanced-A Palm Beach, the same day the Spikes received right-handed pitcher Jacob Booden from rookie-level Johnson City.
That’s the nature of minor league baseball. The deck can shuffle at any time. However, whether you are the one being moved or waiting patiently for your turn, the process can be stressful.
“As soon as you get called into the manager’s office you don’t really know what’s happening, but they always say ‘hey close the door,’” Booden said. “So you never really know. You might have an idea, but your heart’s beating really fast.”
The 6-foot-7, 235-pound pitcher had a 1.13 ERA in two games with Johnson City, where he was sent to get more innings after starting 2013 in Palm Beach.
“It’s a nerve-racking experience, but after they tell you what the outcome is, it’s pretty awesome,” Booden said.
He struck out five of the eight batters he faced in State College’s 12-3 victory Sunday against Mahoning Valley.
The flip side is getting demoted, which happened to former Spikes’ outfielder Brian Vigo when he was sent to Johnson City on Saturday, a day after going 2-for-4 against Batavia. He was just 3-for-16 with the Spikes and struggled for opportunities with stronger bats in the lineup.
“When players get moved down it’s usually because they’re not going to get enough playing time to develop,” said Spikes’ manager Oliver Marmol. “If they get moved up it’s either because they’re playing slightly above the level of the league or a lot higher and we want to see them challenged a little bit.”
Adamek had a 0.96 ERA with State College in just over nine innings of relief work. His three saves led the team, including a four-out save in the Spikes’ 5-2 win over Batavia on Saturday. In six appearances, opponents hit just .188 against him.
Spikes pitching coach Dernier Orozco said it’s Adamek’s fastball — which consistently hits 95 mph — coupled with a sharp-breaking slider he can throw in any count that makes the 23-year-old pitcher valuable.
After a nearly five-year commitment in the Navy, Harris, 27, hopes he is showing his value.
The 13th-round pick in 2008 from the U.S. Naval Academy has yet to allow an earned run with State College. He’s been stingy on the mound, allowing just two hits in seven innings of relief for an opponents’ batting average of .080. He also has improved the velocity of his fastball, from around 82-84 mph in March up to his current 92 mph — his speed five years ago.
“I’m thrilled,” Harris said. “I feel great. I want to be out there every night. My arm feels great. I want to keep pitching.”
But until the day he gets called into Marmol’s office, Harris will be patient.
“It’s not in our hands,” he said. “The only thing that’s in our hands is how we do in the field. Other than that you can’t control it.
“Like I said, I want to be the guy that they say ‘hey congrats you’re going to the next level.’ And all I can do is keep doing what I’m doing and we’ll see.”
The revolving door spun again after the Spikes beat the Scrappers on Sunday night, when Chris Perry was called into Marmol’s office and told he would join Adamek in Peoria.
Perry, a 17th-round pick in 2012, had a 1.61 ERA and was 2-0 with the Spikes. When Harris finished in the training room, he walked into the clubhouse, shoulder wrapped in ice and bear hugged his teammate.
“I’m definitely excited,” Perry said. “A move in the organization is always a plus. We have a great group of guys here and great facilities so it’s kind of bittersweet.”