Background: Former 1st round pick as a college closer; rushed to the Bigs by the Giants; included with Jerome Williams in the Latroy Hawkins deal last season; Cubs moved him into the rotation at AA & AAA last season with mediocre results.
When I saw him pitch for SF a couple of seasons ago, he was in the low-mid 90s and wild. He looked like a kid who was rushed. When I saw him pitch for the Cubs in his first stint this season, it didn't look like anything had changed. He still looked like a talented kid who was missing something at the big league level. He was still throwing low 90s, not trusting his stuff and afraid to challenge big league hitters.
Fast-forward to this week. The Cubs again send down Michael Wuertz (talented right-hander with a filthy slider who would be one of the Reds better relievers) and bring up Aardsma. I saw him pitch his first game back up against the Reds. The gun reads 96, then 97, then 98. I was shocked. Not only was he cooking with gas, but his attitude was night and day. He didn't think any of the Reds hitters could get good wood on him.
Dusty procedes to use him for three straight games, and he looked like a new pitcher in all three games (though Griffey did touch him up for a bomb while embarrassing Bob Brenley, who called for Griff to bunt). But the end result is that this is clearly a new David Aardsma; furthermore, Dusty Baker clearly trusts this rookie who was untrustworthy just a month ago.
Again, fast-forward to tonight. I'm watching the Cubs/Cards in a 4-4 game going into the 9th. Who does Dusty turn to with Luna, Poo-holes & Rolen up? Dempster? Nope, it's David Aardsma again. He gets Luna to ground out. Pujols comes up, Aardsma gets a visit to the mound, afterwhich the Cards announcers swear that Aardsma was told not go near home plate, or he'd be yanked back to AAA.
He puts 97 about 6-8 inches off the black, then 98 at about the same spot. Pujols has him at 2-0, and the announcers swear Pujols isn't going to get a pitch to hit. Next pitch is a slider called strike on the outside corner. Cards color guy says that a lot of young pitchers here will want to play the hero once they get a strike. Next pitch is 98 on the outside corner, and Pujols barely misses it. Again, the Cards color guy says a young pitcher will often be mistaken here, and think he can be the hero with two strikes on a hitter instead of playing it safe and walking him. Next pitch: 99 with late movement blown right past Pujols.
Aardsma goes on to have no problem with Rolen and even blows one past him at 101 mph both on the TV gun and the stadium gun.
What's gotten into David Aardsma? Talk about an epiphany.