Rulon Off To Hot Start

Rulon has given up just one earned run so far

It's late July and the Yankees short season A-ball team have found themselves in first place in their division. Sometimes the starting pitching has been the reason for their success and other times its been the offense, but throughout the entire season they've gotten a lot of help from their bullpen.

Brad Rulon has been especially successful for the Baby Bombers this year. In his first 14 appearances he has a 2-0 record with a 0.39 ERA and has 32 strike outs in just 23 innings.

At five foot eleven and 186 pounds, Rulon is of small stature for a professional pitcher, but he has a good fastball and backs that up with a power curveball which makes him successful.

His fastball rarely touches 90 MPH so he usually relies on good command and the ability to keep the ball down to pitch well. Mix in a very strong 12-to-6 curveball that starts off looking like a fastball before dropping out of the hitters eye sight and the Yankees have themselves a strong middle reliever in their organization.

"He's thrown real good this year," said Staten Island pitching coach Pat Daneker. "He's got a good fastball and a real, real sharp curveball, straight down.

"He moves the ball around, up and down and then he paints a couple on the knees on the outside corner and even moves the ball in a little bit. He's been a real positive guy out of the bullpen so far."

Rulon was drafted by the Yankees in the thirty-fourth round out of Georgia Tech where he worked both in middle relief and out of the closer role. So far he's been primarily a middle reliever for the Yankees, but his manager Pat McMahon hasn't ruled out the possibility of using him in the closer role.

"I think he can close games," McMahon said. "As the season unfolds and depending on how the bullpen is used, there will be times during the course of the season different people will have to close depending on matchups and depending on how the different people have pitched. I think he's capable of closing."

To this point there is no plan on using him out of the rotation, partially because he's never done it before. Rulon pitched four years in college and appeared in 117 games, all out of the bullpen. He's not focused on changing now, he feels like all of his experience in the pen gives him an advantage.

"To me it feels pretty similar," Rulon said. "I played against some good schools with some big crowds. Other than the wood bats it's pretty similar.

"A lot of the guys have never thrown in the bullpen in college, but I did so I feel like it helped make it easier for me to come in to this level and adjust quickly."

There are a few things that the Yankees want to see happen before this season ends. First they want him to smooth out his mechanics a little.

"I think there are some things in his delivery that he'll work hard on cleaning up," McMahon said. "We're working on his balance point to give him an edge to use his power breaking ball and hopefully it will also help him to locate his fastball better."

They would also like to see him add another pitch to give him more options. Right now he is mainly a two-pitch pitcher who only occasionally throws a changeup. By adding another pitch he would have more versatility on the mound and it would give hitters another pitch to think about while facing him.

"He will get the chance to work with Pat Daneker on adding another pitch," his manager said. "But at this point Brad is doing what he does well. He's continuing to pitch and he's continuing to locate. That will be an ongoing process that he and Pat will be working on."

Things have been all good for Rulon so far this season. Pitching at a level where the starting pitchers are on a strict pitch count can be hard on teams if they don't have a strong bullpen. The Baby Bombers are lucky in that respect because theirs is one of the strongest in the league and a big part of why they are in first place.

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