Indians prospect Joseph Gardner
put up impressive numbers in his pro debut last season, posting a a 2.75 ERA over 28 starts across two levels. But whether Gardner remains a starter over the long haul, or is one day moved to the bullpen, may come down to his slider.
"The slider is certainly a weapon," said Ross Atkins, vice president, player development, for the Indians. "It gives him a chance to be a starter at the big league level."
Along with his solid performance on the mound, the 23-year-old Akron Aeros right-hander has impressed Cleveland management with his dedication off the field as well.
"The strides Joe has made as a professional, with a commitment to strength and conditioning, have really benefited him," said Atkins. "He's always been a good athlete with a strong drive and personality, but he's taken it to a new level."
"He's a tall, strong pitcher with a good, athletic body," said Akron manager Chris Tremie. "He continues to work hard. He throws a fastball, slider and changeup and pitches at around 91-93 [mph]."
Gardner began his pro career in 2010 with Class A Lake County, earning a midseason promotion to Kinston after going 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in six Midwest League starts. The 6-foot-4 hurler didn't disappoint, posting a 12-6 mark and 2.65 ERA in 22 starts with the K-Tribe.
"I'm a contact pitcher. I throw a lot of sinkers and get a lot of ground balls," Gardner said. "I want to continue to develop my other pitches and consistently pound the strike zone, limit my walks and do my best."
Gardner opened strong in his Double-A debut this year, going 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts for the Aeros before being shut down with shoulder fatigue.
"He should be pitching within a week or two ... could be even sooner," noted Atkins.
Garner spent just one season at UC Santa Barbara after pitching at Ohlone College in California. He'd narrowed his Division I picks down to LSU and UCSB when the LSU coaching staff saw him pitch a subpar game in junior college.
"That sprang the door open for us," said UCSB associate head coach Tom Myers. "Cleveland is going to have a nice arm at the big league level, either as a starter or reliever."
On a tear: Reading has jumped out to an 11-5 record, and Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck are two big reasons why. Rizzotti batted .411 with 11 doubles and two homers in his first 56 at-bats, while Overbeck hit .350 with six homers and 18 RBIs in his first 60 plate appearances. Right-hander J.C. Ramirez sports a perfect 3-0 record, including a seven-inning complete-game victory over Akron on Saturday.
Oh, brother: For the second year in a row, the Joseph brothers opposing each other in the Eastern League. Corban Joseph, a 22-year-old second baseman with Trenton, appeared in 31 games for the Thunder in 2010. Caleb Joseph, a 24-year-old catcher, opens the year with Bowie after playing in 106 games for the Baysox last season.