02/05/09 10:00 AM EST
World play enlightens Rockies' Bright
Australia's national team fixture could get more experience in Classic
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
The 24-year-old left-hander, who throws a fastball, a slider and a changeup, was 3-8 with a 4.41 ERA in 47 games at Double-A Tulsa in 2008. He struck out 37 while walking 13 in 49 innings of relief. His ERA hovered around 2.00 through June before he missed a few weeks with shoulder inflammation.
The season before, also with the Drillers, he'd posted a 3.72 ERA and fanned 41 in 46 innings. His two previous seasons had seen mixed results at Class A Advanced Modesto in '06 and Class A Asheville in '05.
While he's not what you would consider a can't-miss blue-chip prospect, Bright has some upside.
"He has a chance to be a situational lefty in the Major Leagues," said Walter Sylvester, the Rockies' assistant director of player development. "He'd fall more under the crafty lefty than the power arm. He has good movement on his fastball and his changeup, and as long as he continues to command the strike zone he can definitely get left-handed hitters out."
Signed with the Rockies at 17 back in '02 out of Box Hill High School in Melbourne, Australia, he made his pro debut in 2003 at Class A Short-Season Casper, posting a 4.29 ERA in the Pioneer League.
During his teens and early 20s he also competed internationally, posting a 2.53 ERA for the World Junior Championship team in 2002 and a 1.50 ERA in four games for Australia's Senior National Team in the 2005 Baseball World Cup, picking up a win against Czechoslovakia.
In '06, Bright pitched one inning against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. He also pitched for the club in the '07 World Cup competition, though his country did not make it into the '08 Olympics.
With just two of their non-big league pitching prospects named to the initial 45-man squads (the other being Ching Lung Lo of Chinese Taipei), the Rockies do not have to worry quite as much about the quantity of young arms who will be missing a large chunk of Spring Training. So they can better afford to look at the bright side if the pair do indeed make their respective countries' 28-man rosters.
"From a greed side, we hate to lose our kids during Spring Training, and of course you always want to control your pitching," Sylvester said. "But it's something we deal with to be good citizens and to help baseball grow as an international sport."
Plus Sylvester adds, the level of international play can absolutely help players such as Bright and Lo should they be chosen to represent their countries in the upcoming tournament.
"In most cases it only helps a player," Sylvester said. "(Rockies pitcher) Manny Corpas really took off after doing well for Panama in the World Baseball Classic, because oftentimes the international players are the younger players and they get to play with the players they grew up admiring. The pride they take in playing for their country gets them used to the big games. And the travel and the opportunity to meet people from other cultures can only help the kids in terms of long-term development."
When teams such as the Rockies sign young players from other countries, they know that this scenario may play out sooner or later.
"We respect the fact that the kids want to play for their country, just as we do if we have Americans who want to," Sylvester said. "Because at the end of the day, the pride of playing for your country helps make you a better baseball player. We all adjust. I mean, if the kid has an injury we'll monitor him. But if he's healthy and has a chance to play for his team, then that's quite an honor."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.