The ups and downs
GJ Rockies pitcher says club has been supportive
Peter Tago no longer goes to the mound wanting to impress people.
“It’s been up and down,” said the Colorado Rockies’ first-round draft pick in 2010, who was on the fast track from the time he signed. “I try to not focus on where I’ve been, just take it all in and learn every year and just keep working hard every day, no matter where you’re at.
“I still have to get hitters out and try to do that every day. It’s been up and down, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Tago didn’t sign until late August of 2010, then spent three weeks with the Casper Ghosts, but never got in a game.
The Rockies’ plan was to have him throw bullpen sessions and some live batting practice, so the coaches could get a look at his stuff. There were only a few weeks left in the season anyway, so the young right-hander got his first real work during the instructional league that fall.
After spring training in 2011, he was assigned to Class A Asheville, the third rung on the Rockies’ organizational ladder.
Only 18 years old, he struggled, going 3-5 with a 7.07 ERA. He struck out 58, but walked 72. He doesn’t like to talk about the past two seasons, preferring to live in the now. But, he said, that first year was a rough one.
“It was a very long season mentally and physically,” Tago said. “Going from a seven-day rotation in high school to a five-day for five months. It was really tough.
“It’s a long season, and the main thing was to stay healthy. I felt like I stayed up on my arm program and my conditioning and strength program. It was pretty tough for me my first year.”
He spent last season at Tri-City, the Rockies’ short-season Class A team, going 2-7 with a 5.47 ERA. He still had more walks than strikeouts, but the ratio was down (39 walks, 37 strikeouts).
After extended spring training this spring, he made a couple of starts in Tri-City (0-2, 9.00 ERA, 10 walks, 6 strikeouts) and was assigned to Grand Junction.
He’s made progress this summer, though. In seven starts, he’s 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA. He has 22 strikeouts and 23 walks, and he had arguably his best start July 25 against Idaho Falls. Tago threw six solid innings, allowing two runs on six hits.
He struck out three, walked three and picked off one runner at first. Tago left with a 3-2 lead, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it, allowing seven runs in the seventh inning.
Despite the Rockies losing 9-4, Tago said he feels like his old self again.
“Absolutely. I feel comfortable in the way I play baseball and the way that I go about my business and my work ethic,” he said. “That’s all I know how to do. Whatever happens, happens, and whatever decisions are made are out of my control. I try not to overwhelm myself with that.”
That’s what happened early in his career, he said. He was the Rockies’ second first-rounder that year, selected behind Kyle Parker, a first baseman now at Double A Tulsa.
“(I was) putting pressure on myself and all the expectations,” he said. “That doesn’t matter to me any more.”
Now all he’s concerned with is making sure he does what’s expected between starts, with conditioning, bullpen sessions and maintaining his arm strength — and giving the GJ Rockies a chance to win when he’s on the mound.
He and GJ pitching coach Ryan Kibler developed a good relationship during extended spring training, he said, and he’s happy to be working with him. That relationship, and the organization’s new individual player plans, have helped him settle in.
Manager Anthony Sanders said Tago is a player who likes to be in a routine. The right-hander from Dana Point, Calif., who turned 21 in July, said he now feels comfortable in that routine. It’s translated into confidence on the mound.
Through it all, Tago said, the Rockies have been supportive.
“They’ve been with me through the ups and downs, and they’ve been willing to work with me, and they never gave up on me,” he said. “That stuck with me, and it still has. I’ve played my part as well. I’m still working hard and doing the things I’m supposed to.”
Part of his journey back to being himself is growing up, and part of it is taking advantage of the Rockies’ resources and knowing what’s expected.
“It didn’t click ... I was just done impressing people,” he said. “I don’t want to impress people any more.
“I just want to go out there, throw strikes, get outs and help my team win, give them a chance to win the ballgame.”