The challenge of a quick promotion in the minor leagues is nothing compared to the challenges Josh Poytress has faced in his career.
In 2009 the Fresno State sophomore pitcher felt pain he figured he could shrug off. So it goes, pitchers get sore. Sometimes they need rest. But the pain turned out to be life-threatening.
Doctors discovered he had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or TOS, a condition in which a vein or artery in the shoulder clogs. The blood clot in his shoulder could have leaked into his brain and/or heart.
The road ahead included seven surgeries.
Each surgery was a grueling, complicated process with major bumps along the way, but a couple of months later, he was excercising and tossing the ball again.
In 2011 the Pirates drafted the lefty out of Fresno State in the 18th round (542nd overall).* He made his professional debut in the New York Penn League later that year, playing for Kimera Bartee's State College Spikes squad. The team finished second to last with a 31-44 record. Poytress finished the season with a 4.28 ERA in 33 innings. He began 2012 with the Class-A West Virginia Power and made an excellent start out of the gate. He had a 1.08 ERA in 3 games, 8 IP, before his promotion to High-A Bradenton.
His time in the NYPL in 2011 seems to have a lot to do with where he finds himself mid-May.
"I learned that I needed to trust my fastball more in the NYPL, and be more aggressive with it," Poytress said. "In the SAL I learned that being aggressive early with my fastball helps set up my off speed, and it helped me keep hitters off balance, which is why I had the success i did."
The news of his promotion came in typical simplistic, dramatic fashion.
"After our game got cancelled, we were told the bus was coming in an hour, so I had packed all my stuff and gotten ready to go. I got called into the Skip's [Rick Sofield] office and he told me I wasn't getting on the bus because I was getting called up."
Poytress throws a fastball that has been clocked in the upper 80's. He also has a curveball and changeup in the mix. His curveball, as well as a cut fastball, have been effective in a number of situations this season.
"They have both been out pitches and I've been able to throw them consistently in the zone to both lefties and righties. My change-up needs more work for sure. I have a little harder time locating it, which is weird because last year it was my best pitch my far."
But at twenty-two he's already learned that none of that works without a deeper sense of himself when he takes the mound.
"The biggest lesson I've learned so far is to just trust your stuff. I was drafted because I have talent just like everyone else in pro ball. If I have more faith in my abilities than the hitter, then I know I can get him out if I just throw the way I'm supposed to and pitch my game plan, and not conform to the zone or to what type of hitter he is."
And having trust and faith in his ability to rise to another challenge is something he's all too familar with.
The Bradenton Marauders next play the Fort Myers Miracle for a scheduled 7:05 start. Jameson Tallion (0-1, 3.12) goes against B.J. Hermsen (0-0, 0.00)
*He was originally drafted in 2008 by the Houston Astros, but elected to attend Fresno State.