The daily grind of the Minor Leagues can be tough mentally, especially if you haven't had to cope with challenging situations before. Asher Wojciechowski
, though, came prepared.
"It's way better than what you have to go through as a freshman at The Citadel," the Dunedin pitcher said. "If you can make it through that, you can cope with about anything. It definitely toughens you mentally."
Plebes at the South Carolina military college are constantly taunted by upperclassmen in the cadet program.
"It's like being in lockdown for nine months," Toronto's No. 10 prospect said.
But a toughened Wojciechowski survived to become the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year as a junior and was taken by the Blue Jays with the 41st overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Jumped to the Class A Advanced Florida State League in his first full season, the 6-foot-4 right-hander had mixed results a year ago. But he is pitching like Toronto had hoped this season in a return to Dunedin.
Wojciechowski was 3-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his last four June starts, not allowing an earned run over 12 innings in his final two outings while giving up just six hits.
For the season, the 23-year-old was 5-2 with a 3.94 ERA after 15 starts and had walked just 14 in 75 1/3 innings while striking out 61.
"He hit a little lull back in May, but he's really picked it up," Dunedin pitching coach Darold Knowles said. "He's accomplished about everything here. I think he's very capable of pitching at a higher level. Once you get to Double-A and Triple-A, anything can happen, but I don't expect him to level out. He's a strong, determined person, and he's getting better all the time."
Wojciechowski was 11-9 with Dunedin last year but had a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 15 homers and didn't strike out quite as many as expected, with 96 in 130 1/3 innings.
"It was a learning experience for him," Knowles said. "It's a long season when you go through it for the first time, and he was trying to make some adjustments."
Wojciechowski started and finished well a year ago. The middle was a struggle.
The Blue Jays wanted him to lower his arm slot and change the grip on his slider, among other tinkering. The results weren't positive.
"I got away from the way I know how to pitch," said Wojciechowski. "I was thinking about my mechanics too much, instead of making good pitches and getting batters out. I went back to throwing the ball with conviction."
That doesn't mean Wojciechowski didn't benefit from the tinkering, though.
"I'm not as herky-jerky and I don't fall off the mound like I used to," he said. "I'm much more under control. Everything they wanted to try made sense, but I had to take what worked for me and go from there."
Wojciechowski's fastball is peaking near the mid-90s again, and his slider is a strikeout pitch. His changeup is also progressing.
"I'm still making adjustments," Wojciechowski said. "I think a pitcher always has to make changes."
As a youngster, Wojciechowski lived in Romania while his family was on a mission assignment, and he wasn't highly acclaimed coming out of high school in Beaufort, S.C. But he pitched for Team USA after his sophomore year at The Citadel and had a banner junior season with the Bulldogs, going 12-3 with 155 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.
When taken 41st in 2010, Wojciechowski was the highest drafted player from the Southern Conference. That's no longer the case, but it looks like the 235-pounder might be back on the fast track to Toronto.
Yelich on fire: Jupiter's Christian Yelich, ranked No. 28 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, didn't cool off after his monster game of four hits, two homers and seven RBIs against St. Lucie last week. The center fielder was 5-for-8 in the next two games against the Mets and was hitting .413 in 11 second-half games through Monday. Miami's No. 1 prospect led the Florida State League with a .559 slugging mark and had a .307 batting average with 10 homers and 14 stolen bases, despite being limited to 54 games because of two stints on the disabled list.
Hail Szczur: Daytona center fielder Matt Szczur hit .395 with seven stolen bases in his first 11 games after spending about three weeks on the disabled list with a sore left knee. He had back-to-back three-hit games, one with a homer and four RBIs and the other with three stolen bases. The Chicago Cubs' No. 4 prospect was hitting .289 with 26 stolen bases in 59 games through Monday.
Rough start: Palm Beach second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla, who was leading the Midwest League with a .322 average when promoted, found the going a lot tougher in the FSL. After 11 games, he was hitting .171 and went through a 0-for-19 stretch over five games. Rahmatulla, a 34th-round pick by St. Louis in the 2011 Draft out of UCLA, hit .314 for Johnson City last season and set an Appalachian League record with 27 doubles in 58 games.
Rohan promoted: Daytona's Greg Rohan, the FSL's RBI leader, was promoted to Double-A Tennessee shortly after a 5-for-5 game against St. Lucie. He hit .285 with 23 doubles, 12 homers and 65 RBIs in 75 FSL games. Rohan, who turned 26 in May, was used at first and third as well as designated hitter.