When Tommy Shirley takes the mound Saturday night in his first ever appearance at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, he’s a good example that a pitcher doesn’t have to light up radar guns to have success.
After dominating at Double-A Corpus Christi, Shirley, a 6-foot-5 left-hander, was promoted to the Oklahoma City RedHawks the week before the All-Star break.
“It’s sort of like (infielder) Kike Hernandez,” said RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco. “When you’re a ballplayer you find a way to get the job done. That’s how Kike got to the big leagues.
“There wasn’t much hype on Shirley. He’s not one of those really high draft picks and he’s been injured some, but he’s worked his way through the system. He just goes out and gets outs.”
Drafted in the ninth round out of Xavier, Shirley said he’s been told several times about a long list of players in the majors that weren’t selected in the first or second rounds.
“Not everyone in the majors was a top guy, but there are a lot of guys that took advantage of their opportunities, guys that proved they can play at the big league level,” Shirley said. “That’s the ultimate goal, but I try not to look ahead.”
The Oakland, Pa., product with an 88-to-90 mph fastball was dominant with Corpus Christi. He was among the Texas League leaders in nearly every category.
In 17 appearances with the Hooks, Shirley went 7-3 with a 1.88 ERA. He limited hitters to a .201 batting average and recorded 78 strikeouts.
“He’s very deceptive,” DeFrancesco said. “He hides the ball well throwing across his body, and he’s a strike-thrower. His first start with us (last week on the road), we didn’t see enough of his secondary pitches. That’s what we’re working with him on, trying to get a three-pitch combination working.”
Shirley, 25, has flown under the radar, partly because he’s only thrown 240 innings since he was drafted four years ago.
He pitched only 17 innings the year he was drafted. The following season, Shirley underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and pitched only 13 innings. Two years ago, he was moved to the bullpen before he was moved back into a rotation spot late last summer.
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