Recently I had a chance to chat with Orioles pitching prospect Ashur Tolliver. While injuries held him from making it to the big leagues as quickly as he would’ve liked, Tolliver put together a solid season in 2013 and figures to build on that success in the higher minors next season. Here’s what he had to say:
Michael Natelli: After making such strides in 2011, what kind of mental toll did it take on you having to sit out in 2012?
Ashur Tolliver: Having to sit out for the entirety of the 2012 season was the most challenging thing I’ve ever faced in my career. I had prepared my body and arm in the offseason & felt great until I got down to Florida. I was extremely excited for the season until i reported to spring training and starting feeling serious pain in my shoulder. The physical rehab from shoulder surgery is very difficult but the hardest part was staying mentally tough. I knew the odds of coming back to pre-surgery form from my specific surgery is less than a coin flip & that was very difficult to keep off my mind throughout the rehab process. The training staff in Sarasota was outstanding the whole way & just kept working with me everyday to get stronger.
MN: What was the most difficult part of missing so much time?
AT: The most difficult part of missing so much time for me was just not being a part of a team. I wasn’t able to do (pitch) what the Orioles drafted me to do and that was difficult. I couldn’t stand being away from the game and being in rehab mode every single day.
MN: You came back as good as ever, boasting an ERA of 2.61 with Frederick. How were you been able to come back so strong?
AT: As far as actually coming back and getting back on the mound after being out so long was just trusting that my surgery was a success. Believing that you are fixed and not being afraid to go out there and let it go again..that was a major hurdle. Also, trying to get the feel back for the speed of the game was an adjustment.
This year has gone well, but I still have a very long ways to go. There are a lot a ways for me to improve this offseason going in to next year. I would say the main reason for my success is just doing what the organization preaches and that’s attacking the hitters, getting into favorable counts. Our catchers and the defense were also great.
MN: After suffering such a significant injury, how do you train yourself not to worry about it when you’re pitching?
AT: When I’m pitching I try not to think about where I was last year or when I was hurt. I just trust that everything throughout the process from the surgery through the rehab went was a success and continue to get better everyday.
MN: Have you set any specific goals of when you want to be at certain minor league levels or the big leagues?
AT: I don’t have any specific goals or timetable for where I want to be. I just want to stay healthy and continue to get better. The organization knows whats best for me and what level i need to be. I know I’m going to better next year than I am now & I’m very excited about that.
MN: You posted a very high strikeout rate and a low ERA, so what do you feel you need to do in order to take that next step?
AT: I feel like I need to continue to work on throwing strikes at the bottom of the Zone. Pitching ahead and being able to throwing my off speed behind in counts.