Tulsa Drillers pitcher Bruce Billings has been one of the best pitchers in the Texas League during the 2010 season and has the accolades to prove it. The San Diego native was named a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star and earned Pitcher of the Week for the week of June 14. Billings's most impressive moment of the season came when he wrote his name into the Tulsa Professional Baseball record books by throwing 38 consecutive innings without allowing a run.
After opening the season with a 1-4 record, Billings was able to turn the season around and credits his recovery to going back to the basics.
"I've had a different mentality on the mound. At first, I felt like I needed to prove something here. I had a bad outing in Springfield, and it made me refocus on just hitting my spots. I needed to keep the ball down in the zone and not worry about trying to trick guys. I needed to just go right at them with my fastball. I've been in attack mode ever since," Billings said.
Billings amazing streak began on May 9 and six starts later he was inching closer to the record. "Everybody was talking about the streak. I just kept saying to myself, 'stay focused. Stay focused.' Prayer helps a lot to relax me," Billings said.
The scoreless inning streak came to an end June 9 against the Springfield Cardinals. Billings threw seven near perfect innings, but with two-outs found himself in trouble after allowing a walk and a base hit. Reliever Scott Rice entered the game and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Rice, also a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, then hit the next batter to force home a run that brought the streak to an end at 38 innings.
The dramatic and disappointing end to the record did little to faze Billings. "Baseball is such a funny game. Scott Rice has been one of our horses out of the pen, and one of our go to guys. It's just the way baseball is, maybe you don't get a call, maybe you're a little wild that day. It happens. Another day, he comes in and saves my butt. The most important thing is, he closed the door and we won the game," Billings said.
Three starts after the streak ended, Billings moved into the Drillers bullpen to become one of those guys that help to "close the door." The Colorado Rockies made the decision after determining that Billings was best suited to have an impact in the Major Leagues pitching out of the bullpen.
His move to the pen got off to a rough start with four runs allowed in his first appearance. "I wasn't comfortable out there, I thought I would be, but I was trying to do too much. Bryan Harvey, our pitching coach, said it's not about being smooth, but seeing the glove and attacking it and I have taken that to heart so that's what I am doing," Billings said.
After a few starts he now seems to be adjusted to the move and credits other Drillers relievers for his success. "The move has been really good. All the guys in the pen, I will ask them questions on what to expect and how to get into a certain routine so I will be ready to play everyday. And they have all helped me out", Billings added. In his first seven relief appearances, opposing batters were hitting only .186 against him.
Only time will tell if Billings can become a bullpen staple, but if he can put together another scoreless inning streak, it will not be long until Drillers fans see him in a Rockies uniform.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.