Tracy Bouncing Back

Tracy has been out since June 12th

TRENTON, NJ - Five starts through his first season with Double-A Trenton, Matt Tracy posted a 2-2 record with an ERA just under eleven. He has a 2.72 ERA in his seven starts since and had found more of a comfort pitching at the higher level before a right hip injury forced the left-hander to be shut down since June 12.

There has not been an official timetable on when he can be cleared to pitch again, but there is some optimism from Tracy.

"I'm feeling better and better every day," Tracy said about the healing process. "They're calling it a strained hip abductor and we still don't know how much longer to heal.

"Then when it heals and whenever I become pain free, I will start throwing again. The right leg is my landing leg so rotating to throw puts the stress on it."

As a guy who had been rolling and progressing recently, it was tough to put him on the DL because he had become so reliable.

"It's a shame that he has gone down because he was rolling," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. "He was one of those guys that you could kind of count on when things were not going so well for the club.

"He's been a go-to guy and he's put the skids on so that he could get back on track. Overall, he has been really good."

It surely didn't begin that way though. Following a year with the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League in which he went 5-7 with an ERA of 3.27 and 64 strikeouts, Tracy's first outing for Trenton was one to forget. He lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up five runs on three hits and four walks.

"The main problem I had at the beginning of the season was that I was leaving the ball up in the zone," Tracy said. " Everything I threw was elevated, which made it easier for the batters I faced to get hits."

"First time out, he wasn't very good," Franklin said. "As a matter of fact, he didn't last more than an inning or so, he had a tough time out there.

"Fortunately, the next few outings this guy had he was lights out. He came back and bared down and started to show everybody what he was really about.

"He's a pretty strong-minded guy, and he wasn't very happy with that first outing, so I'd go over and pat him on his back and tell him ‘Hey, you'll be back out there in five days'.

"When he got back out there on that fifth day, he pitched tremendously and has been pitching like that ever since. He's got a good work ethic, and pays attention to a lot of detail."

One thing that he was working on before he had gotten hurt was the command of his offspeed pitches and the development of a curveball. He's had solid command with the fastball all year, but it has been about getting confidence in throwing secondary pitches to both lefties and righties.

"We've been working on the shape of his curveball, and the more use of it," pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "Before it was more slider-like, and were trying to get a little more 12-6 action on it.

"Also the cutter that he's been learning the feel for that, learning about the release point, where to start it, and how to use it versus both lefties and righties. So those were the big things that he was working on and really improving on before he got hurt."

One of the most ironic stats of his season so far is his record on the road versus at home. At home he's 4-1 with a 3.24 ERA, but is 0-3 on the road with an ERA over seven.

"The last couple outings on the road, I feel that I've done very well. We just haven't gotten the W," Tracy said. "But I feel like it could just be a little bit of a coincidence. Either way, whether it is at home or on the road, it's 60-feet, 6-inches to home plate. It's the same game; I still just have to execute the pitches."

Coach Phelps thought of that as just a coincidence.

"I certainly think it's a coincidence," Phelps said. "Early in the year he battled with his command quite a bit and then he started pitching to some better counts and I believe in the month of May he had around a one ERA. He gets into the moment and focuses on his next pitch routine and goes right after it."

Despite some ups and downs that many players have in Double-A, the competitiveness has been there and admired by the coaches throughout the season.

"He's a very good competitor," Franklin said. "He had a rough first outing. He lasted about 1/3 of an inning and it probably killed him and should have.

"But he bounces back and starts going back out on the mound and competing and you see what the kid is all about. He makes some good pitches, uses all of them well, changes speeds, has continued to do so, and now you've got it."

His experience in Double-A so far has been valuable for Tracy and though his progress has been hindered, he has taken in a lot in his first few months.

"Being in Double-A so far has been a great learning experience for me," Tracy said. "I'm learning a lot up here with the coaches like Tommy Phelps, and focusing on the execution of pitches.

"It's totally different from single-A. The hitters have a better approach when at the plate, and they really will make you pay for mistakes.

"You've got to come up here and really focus on executing pitches down in the zone because up here they will make those mistakes more noticeable.

"In the end, it all comes down to pitch execution. Just keeping the ball down and executing the pitches I throw will definitely result in a successful rest of the season," he concluded.

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