The story in today’s paper focuses on Joe D’Alessandro and his attempt to make the team as a nonroster invitee. Tom Cochran is in the same boat. The 6-2, 210-pound lefthander is actually property of the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can Am League. That’s where he played last season. If he doesn’t stick with Lancaster, he’ll likely head back to Worcester.
Cochran, 26, is already an indy ball veteran. He spent three seasons in the Frontier League before last year. He has made 76 starts and has pitched 486 innings since 2005. All of it was designed to get him another chance at affiliated ball. Cochran came close. He was in spring training with the Reds last month, but was one of their final cuts.
“They said it was a numbers thing,” he said. “It’s always a numbers thing. That’s all right, though. I’ll get another shot and we’ll see where I can go with it.”
At the moment, Cochran just wants to be a member of the Barnstormers. After he went 13-2 with a 2.79 ERA in the Can Am League last season, it’s obvious that going back there isn’t going to do much for his career. He needs to face better competition and pitch on a slightly higher-profile stage.
Lancaster might be the spot.
“This is the next step in baseball for me,” Cochran said. “I feel that this league can take me to another level. Obviously, the play here is a lot better than the rest of independent ball. There’s a lot of older guys from Double-A and Triple-A and a lot of big-league guys. I feel that if I can prove myself here, an organization might give me a better look.”
Cochran was drafted in the 18th round by the Red Sox in 2003. He spent two seasons in their system, appearing in a total of 46 games out of the bullpen, before being released. From there he played for Ohio Valley and then Washington in the Frontier League.
It’s easy to see why Cochran has struggled to get a longer look. He doesn’t throw hard. His fastball tops out around 85 or 86. He relies heavily on his changeup, which gets a lot of swings and misses. With the Barnstormers in spring training, Cochran has allowed three earned runs in five innings, but has eight strikeouts.
Despite his durability and solid numbers, Cochran has never started a game in the affiliated minor leagues.
“I’ve had success throughout the years,” he said. “I guess that’s part of baseball. You’re up and you’re down. You’ve just got to keep driving until somebody gives you a good look and somebody takes a liking to you.”
Once the visa players arrive and are activated, the Barnstormers will have some difficult decisions to make. Everyone in camp has performed well enough to merit a spot on the roster. Not everyone can stay. Cochran is one of the guys who must wait and see if he makes the cut.