BRADENTON – Towards the end of Spring Training, Stephen Tarpley went down with an oblique injury. He threw a pitch during one of his starts, held his side, and walked off with a trainer. Due to the timing of the injury, he spent the first month of the season rehabbing and building up to join the Marauders. Tarpley is now ready to go, and will make his season debut on Tuesday in Fort Myers.
Tarpley threw five innings a week ago today, and was expecting to return to the Marauders’ rotation on Thursday night. The Pirates cleared a rotation spot for him when they promoted Brandon Waddell to Altoona. However, they waited to bring him back to the rotation, instead letting him have one final rehab start on Thursday. He went five innings in that outing, and rejoined the Marauders for workouts today. He will be activated from the disabled list and added to the team before his outing next week.
“I’ve been chomping at the bit all off-season,” Tarpley said of his debut. “This is a huge opportunity for me. I can’t wait to make my High-A debut this upcoming Tuesday.”
Tarpley said that he was feeling good, and hasn’t been feeling the effects of the injury. He was one of the top pitching prospects to follow in Bradenton coming into the season, and could be their top pitcher now with Waddell promoted and Yeudy Garcia struggling. In order for that to happen, Tarpley is going to need to continue the success he saw last year.
“[My goal is to] just start off where I ended up last year,” Tarpley said. “Getting a lot of ground balls, getting ahead of guys and putting guys away. Just being really efficient, as we talked about last year. Just continuing on that, and getting better hitting my spots.”
One of the things that Tarpley and I discussed last year was the usage of his slider. He works off a fastball/changeup approach, but had been focusing on improving the slider as an out pitch.
“That was more of a developmental pitch for me last year, just being more consistent with it,” Tarpley said. “I got a lot of opportunity to work with it this year. Just leaving off where I left off last year, I’ve gotten a lot better at it. This year is a huge opportunity for me to test myself, and push myself, and challenge myself to get better.”
It’s good seeing Tarpley making his debut. As a left-hander who sits 90-94 MPH and touches 97, he’s one of the more interesting pitching prospects in the lower levels of the system. He’s also one of the top left-handed starting prospects in the system, ranking high on a list that has been growing in the last year. His progress will be good to watch, with a focus on whether he can follow Waddell’s lead and make it to Altoona at some point this season.