Alec Asher has been one of the Carolina League's top pitchers this season. But he needed to overcome a few bumps in the road first.
The 21-year old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery at age 14, needed another operation to remove a bone spur two years ago and still became a fourth-round Draft pick of the Rangers last year. After all of that, Asher posted a 3-2 record with a 3.10 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach this season.
This is Asher's first full season as a professional pitcher, and those earlier problems made him very cautious about his arm.
"A lot of guys don't realize they're getting paid to use their arm," Asher said. "If your arm goes bad, you're out of a job. I know from having the two surgeries, it's not fun having them. It's not fun going through that, and it's not fun going through rehab. You've got to take care of your arm."
Asher's arm problems started early. At 14, pitching Little League, travel baseball and for his school team at the same time eventually damaged the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow.
He eventually saw Dr. James Andrews, who said the ligament was frayed, and did the Tommy John procedure. Asher then took a full year off to rehab and came back strong.
The Giants then picked Asher in the 23rd round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, right out of high school. Asher went to Arizona for X-rays and an MRI, and the team found a bone spur on the elbow and backed off from signing him.
But Asher went ahead with the surgery in fall 2010 and made it back on the field about six months later at Santa Fe College (Fla.). He spent one season there before moving to Polk Community (Fla.) and really taking off.
Asher went 13-1 with a 2.08 ERA at Polk in 2012. He struck out 107 batters and walked only 27, and the Rangers drafted him, not worrying as much about his past medical issues.
"I knew going into the Draft that I always had the medical sticker on my back," Asher said. "I always had that against me. But I had a good year in college, and there was talk I was going to go high. I was happy and I jumped 19 rounds from high school."
The right-hander pitched at Class A Short-Season Spokane in the Northwest League last year, making 20 appearances in relief with a 2-3 record and a 3.09 ERA plus five saves. Asher moved up to Myrtle Beach this season and kept improving.
He's got a fastball that can reach the mid-90's along with a changeup, slider and curve. Asher has 36 strikeouts and just 12 walks, limiting opponents to a .192 batting average in his first eight games -- seven of which were starts.
"Asher is doing a good job for us in that starting role," Myrtle Beach manager Jason Wood said. "He continues to go out and give us quality starts. He seems to be making adjustments that will allow him to have success."
Lucky seven: Wilmington shortstop Jack Lopez drove in seven runs during the Blue Rocks' 18-5 rout of Frederick on Saturday night. Lopez had a three-run homer, a two-run triple and a two-run single on a 3-for-5 night.
Good and bad: The four Potomac pitchers who worked in Monday's game with Winston-Salem truly had a mixed bag of results. They combined to strike out 14 batters -- but gave up seven runs on 12 hits in a 7-0 loss.
One and done: Blake Schwartz (3-1) of Potomac threw a one-hitter in a seven-inning game against Winston-Salem on Sunday. He gave up a fifth-inning single en route to the 7-1 victory, striking out five and walking three while lowering his ERA to 0.82.