Elkhart's Tanner Tully was 'feeling good' about season even before promotion

Tanner Tully prepares to fire a pitch for the Lake County Captains earlier this season. The Elkhart native was scheduled to pitch for Lake County in Saturday's Single-A Midwest League game at South Bend, but was promoted Friday to Double-A Akron of the Eastern League.

Tanner Tully won't be keeping a long-anticipated appointment with family, friends and fans this weekend, but he's got a compelling reason.

Also one that probably didn't catch pitching coach Jason Blanton by much surprise.

Tully, the former Elkhart Central baseball superstar who was slated to start Saturday's Midwest League game for the Lake County Captains in a homecoming of sorts at South Bend, was instead promoted Friday by the Cleveland Indians to Double-A Akron of the Eastern League.

Spared a 270-mile bus trip from near Cleveland to South Bend in the process, Tully was instead expected to make the 45-mile jaunt to Akron in time for the RubberDucks' Friday evening game against Portland.

He was not immediately available for comment on his promotion, but said Thursday by phone that he was "feeling pretty good" about how his first full professional season was progressing.

Now Tully can feel even better about it, although Blanton, the Captains' pitching coach, sounds like he'll miss him.

"He's been great to coach," Blanton said Thursday of Tully during that same phone call. "He's an even-keeled kid, great personality. He comes ready to work every day, and he's a strike thrower. He pounds the zone with good stuff and goes after people."

Asked if Tully, a 26th-round pick a year ago, possesses the ability to someday pitch in the major leagues, Blanton quickly replied, "Yes. There are so many vairables – health and opportunity play a role and some of those are out of your control – but when it comes to the controllables, he's doing what he needs to do."

Ironically, Tully's promotion comes on the heels of his worst outing, but his body of work as a whole remains sound.

He was tagged for eight runs, seven earned, on 10 hits over 2 2/3 innings in a June 11 loss to Bowling Green.

However, over his last six appearance preceding that one (three starts, three in relief), Tully compiled a 2.79 earned run average while striking out 27 and walking four in 29 innings. His WHIP was a stingy 1.00.

"I made a few bad pitches (against Bowling Green), and they capitalized," the 22-year-old Tully said. "It's gone now. You have to go on."

Going on, or going home, is a necessity with the grind that minor league life can produce.

"Probably the hardest part is sticking to your routine every day," Tully said of what's been the chief challenge.

Conversely, Tully added that a plus has been "how easy it is meeting new people. Everybody's in the same situation."

For the season, Tully was at a 3.68 ERA with a 2-5 record and one save in 51 1/3 innings for 25-41 Lake County.

Most notably, he had struck out 54 and walked merely five, good for a gaudy 9.2 ratio.

"I guess I'd say it's because of command," said Tully, who's not added any new pitches to his repertoire.

"He's got a good fastball, breaking-ball combination," Blanton said, "and with it, he's been able to pitch out of the zone at times, get people to chase up.

"His change-up's not a bad pitch. He just has to throw it more. He gets into a groove with the fastball, breaking ball, where he strings some outs together, and it's kind of like he forgets to throw (the change-up) at times, but he's got it."

While the oft-stoic Tully said Thursday that he was looking forward to visiting with friends and family this weekend, he called the chance to play for the second time at Four Winds Field – the same park where he pitched the Blue Blazers to a 2-1 semistate win over Layfayette Jeff in 2013 – "just another game."

Thanks to Tully's promotion, now it's not even that.

 

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