White aims to bring major returns to Rockies
After being acquired in Ubaldo deal, righty looks to prove his worth
SAN DIEGO -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Alex White wishes someone could add a few more pages to the baseball calendar.
"I told someone I'm going to get to the end of the season and wish I had another month or two to pitch," White said.
That month isn't coming, not with the Rockies nine games below .500 and September upon us.
But in good time, White plans to demonstrate the talents that led the Rockies to insist upon him as one of the three pitchers they received from the Indians for their erstwhile ace pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.
White, the Indians' first-round pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of North Carolina, stormed to the big leagues with the Indians in late April but suffered a middle finger sprain in his third start. He was about to begin a Minor League injury rehab when the Rockies traded for him -- along with 2010 first-round pick Drew Pomeranz, a left-hander; 2009 second-round choice Joseph Gardner, a right-hander; and catcher-outfielder Matt McBride.
Before debuting for the Rockies on Aug. 23, White (1-1, 5.33 ERA in a combined five Major League starts with the Indians and the Rockies) had made two starts at Double-A Tulsa. He has shown to be a long way from top form. But the intangibles that go along with talent, a combination that the Rockies are banking on making him special, are present in abundance.
In his first game, he wobbled in the third inning, and some poor defense behind him didn't help. He gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. Against the D-backs on Monday, White gave up a leadoff home run to Kelly Johnson in the first inning, but didn't give up any more runs until some poorly located pitches in a four-run sixth.
"Health-wise, I've gotten back to where I need to be, but what's gone on in each start is frustrating," said White, who is slated to start against the Padres on Saturday at PETCO Park. "The numbers just haven't been there. Ten earned runs in 12 innings just ain't gong to cut it. I realize that."
But talk to the Rockies and they see a willingness to challenge hitters and a presence they believe in.
"You go back to his first start and some of the different things that unfolded in his start against Houston, when I talked about his poise and his character," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He showed that type of mettle again. After he got through the first inning, he settled in and he was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, they ran up about 25 or 26 pitches on him in the first inning, and as he got into the sixth inning he had something like mid 60s for a pitch count."
Catcher Chris Iannetta went to North Carolina several years before White and didn't know him beyond seeing him on TV and scouting video. He is sold after seeing White up close.
"I don't think the scores have done justice to the type of pitcher he is, and the quality of pitcher," Iannetta said. "He's made his mistakes, no doubt about it. I'm not making any excuses for him. But he's done a really good job in a short amount of time. I think he's still coming back from that injury.
"He's going to really benefit from having an offseason to build his hand back up to what it normally is. I think he's developing his breaking ball away from being one of the top-tier pitchers in the game."
With a couple of spotty performances with the Rockies behind him and so much promise ahead of him, it's no wonder White is so enthusiastic during the dying month of a disappointing Rockies season.
"No question that when you add up all the numbers and how much time was lost, that's probably close to an equivalent of an offseason," Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "When he started his throwing and his rehab until now, that's probably the equivalent of not quite Spring Training.
"Coming out of Spring Training, do we have our best velocities? No. Do we have our best command? No. So asking yourself to do it at the Major League level right now, that's a lot on his plate. But it did give us an opportunity not to see what kind of stuff he's got -- the makeup of the player, his work habits, the way he thinks, the way he perceives the game, his toughness."
It's not the way White preferred to make his first impression, especially with Rockies fans wanting to see what the post-Ubaldo future will look like. But White knows he can overcome a rough beginning. He's done it before.
As a freshman at North Carolina in 2007, White went 6-4 with a 3.35 ERA before the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels would make it to the final round of the College World Series before losing to Oregon State, but White gave up 23 of the 54 earned runs against him all season in four NCAA Tournament appearances. Two years later, he had developed into such a clutch performer that the Indians would make him the 14th overall pick. "I was not good at all," White said. "It was one of those things where you learn from your mistakes. You come back better. It made me focus on coming in the next year and being a leader of that staff.
"The two starts I've had here have been frustrating. But I'm trying to prepare myself to be a part of this organization for a long time. That involves me being a good-to-great pitcher, for many years."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.