CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The last time Rob Bryson was here at Appalachian Power Park, he was wearing West Virginia's logo across his chest.
On Wednesday, he came back to the park for the first time as a Lake County Captain with a chance to help eliminate his former teammates from the South Atlantic League playoffs.
"I got a little preview when they came to our place and I got to play against them for the first time since the trade," the 20-year-old right-hander said. "Being back here, obviously, I lived here for those few months and played here, it's exciting. It's a little weird seeing them on the other side of the field, that's for sure."
"The trade," of course, was the July 7 deal that sent lefty CC Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee. While most of the attention, in terms of the return the Indians got for their ace centered around Matt LaPorta, Bryson and his live right arm definitely could make that deal seem even sweeter for Cleveland further down the line.
Now Bryson has the chance to use that arm against his old friends. The Captains knew they were in, having clinched the first-half North Division title before Bryson joined the squad. So they -- Bryson in particular -- watched with interest as the Power got hot and finished with the league's second-best second-half record.
"That made the playoffs that much more exciting, knowing we were playing against them," Bryson said. "We had already clinched and those guys had to play some pretty good ball to make it. I was rooting for them so I'd get a chance to play against them. It was something I was looking forward to."
Until just recently, it looked like it might be something Bryson would have to look forward to but not participate in. He hurt his shoulder in late July -- ironically, it was against West Virginia during that visit to Lake County -- and just returned to action at the very end of the regular season.
He appeared in seven games in total for the Captains, all in relief, posting a 2.19 ERA over 12 1/3 innings while yielding only six hits and striking out 11. That gave the 2006 31st-round pick a 3.88 ERA between the two SAL clubs. He held opponents to a .197 average with 84 strikeouts in 67 1/3 combined innings. But even those numbers are misleading. Bryson had a 4.82 ERA over 18 2/3 innings in five starts for the Power. He claims he has no preference in terms of a pitching role, but it's clear that at least for now, he's more comfortable coming out of the 'pen.
Totaling his numbers as a reliever, Bryson had a 3.51 ERA with 64 Ks in 48 2/3 innings. Some young players have trouble making the transition after a trade. He seemed to embrace it.
"The trade was exciting," Bryson said. "It was a kind of spur-of-the-moment thing. I had no clue. We were going on the road that night, so I had no idea. As far as the trade, it's definitely an honor to be traded for someone like CC Sabathia. I was excited about it. It was a good thing for me."
It might end up being a good thing for the Captains in this series. He hasn't closed any games for Lake County, but he's got that kind of stuff, with 13 saves and 154 srikeouts over 121 1/3 innings in his brief career. And nothing would please him more than standing on the mound in the ninth inning with the chance to end his former teammates' season while extending his new club's just a few more games.
"That'd be pretty exciting," Bryson said. "That would be perfect."