Some baseball players hit a wall during the dog days of August. The grind of a long season can take its toll. For RedHawks right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, the past six weeks have been more like spring training.
Wojciechowski, who will start Sunday night’s game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, suffered a strained lateral muscle under his armpit a week before he reported to spring training. He suffered another setback (strained forearm) in May.
“This season I’ve faced a lot of adversity,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s been very frustrating, but once it happens you have to make the best of it. Trying to get back in the swing of things in the middle of the season at the Triple-A level was kind of tough.”
A first-round pick who was selected 41st overall four years ago, Wojciechowski was on the fast track to the majors before injuries slowed his progress.
“When you’re out of competition that long it’s difficult,” said RedHawks pitching coach Steve Webber. “You can throw all the bullpen sessions and simulated games you want, but it’s different facing live hitters. You have to regain that adrenalin rush of being on the mound.”
Wojciechowski is 2-3 with a 6.04 ERA since he returned in mid-June. Opponents are hitting .328 against The Citadel product.
Those stats are a stark contrast to last season. The player everyone calls “Wojo” notched an 11-8 record with a 3.32 ERA with the RedHawks and Double-A Corpus Christi. Opponents hit only .223 against him.
“I restrained my lat muscle late in spring training because I probably tried to come back too soon,” Wojciechowski said. “I pretty much didn’t throw for two months, which ruined my whole off-season. I’m just now starting to feel good about my mechanics.”
In his last three starts, Wojciechowski is 2-0 with a 3.89 ERA. He has allowed only 15 hits in 16 innings.
“He’s pretty close to where he was last year,” Webber said. “He’s made a couple of adjustments in his delivery. That’s helped him regain his arm speed and command his fastball and change-up.”
Exceptional command is Wojciechowski’s top asset. In roughly 440 pro innings Wojciechowski has issued less than three walks per nine innings.
“The plan was to pick up where I left off last season, but that wasn’t the case,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m finally where I need to be. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would.”
Acquired in a 10-player trade-deadline deal with Toronto two years ago, Wojciechowski, 25, said he might play winter ball in the Dominican Republic to regain some innings he lost early this season.
If he plays winter ball Wojciechowski would report in mid-October and return to his home in South Carolina the week before Thanksgiving.
“We’ve talked about it (with Astros management), but we haven’t made a definitive decision,” Wojciechowski said. “With me missing half the season it’s probably for the best. Most people there speak English. A lot of Americans go over there. It might be fun.”
One start last season against Round Rock, the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A team, showed how dominant Wojciechowski can be when he’s in a groove.
Essentially one batter shy of throwing a perfect game, Wojciechowski faced the minimum 27 hitters. He allowed only a single in the sixth inning, and the hitter was erased on a double play.
“My focus is to finish this season on a good note,” Wojciechowski said. “I probably have five starts left and want to make those of those five starts and see what happens from there.”