E.A. Sports Today

Simpson gets his shot

[corner-ad id=1]Former Oxford pitcher makes pro debut Tuesday, throws two shutout innings, fans two

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

With all the detours his baseball career has taken over the years, Tucker Simpson has become pretty good at not making plans more than a couple days in advance.

So as his pro career begins to get off the ground, his approach is to show up every day ready to get better and hopefully impress enough of the right people to move along in the system.

Simpson’s dream of playing pro baseball finally became a reality late last week when the former Oxford pitcher signed a contract with the Florida Marlins.

Finally healthy and touching the 90s on the gun, the big right-hander is currently pitching with the Gulf Coast (Rookie) League Marlins. He signed Friday, was in uniform for the first time Saturday, threw in the bullpen and was “hot” there Monday, but has yet to pitch for his new team.

He made his pro debut Tuesday against the GCL Cardinals. He pitched two shutout innings, giving up one hit (a single) and striking out two in a 12-1 victory.

“It was very fun — also very hot,” he texted after the game.

The hope back home was he gets a few outings in Florida and then moves to one of the team’s Class A affiliates in North Carolina or New York.

“I definitely feel blessed to still have this opportunity,” he said Monday night, the first time in three days he felt comfortable with his new digs. “It is a sigh of relief to a certain extent. It’s hard to term it that way because I didn’t feel any pressure or nervousness to sign, but it is a relief and definitely exciting.

“I didn’t think my day of professional baseball was out the window, but I was aware the window was starting to close.”

Simpson, now 22, was virtually unhittable as a high school senior and pitched at Florida, Chipola and Troy in a collegiate career beset by injury and frustration; he threw less than 30 innings over the last two seasons. He would have been a redshirt junior had he returned to Troy in the fall.

He got his most recent look pitching in a collegiate wood-bat league in Georgia for former big-league catcher Todd Pratt and alongside his brother Trent.

The surroundings were good to him. He threw 28 scoreless innings that included a no-hitter with 42 strikeouts and only four walks. He pitched in two all-star games during the summer and was said to have compared favorably to South Atlantic League all-stars by scouts who saw both.

“It was a summer unlike any I’ve had since I played in the Cape and, honestly, that was the last time I was healthy,” Simpson said. “I kind of got out there and got my feet wet the first time and then it was a snowball effect with confidence.

“Todd Pratt opened my eyes to seeing the game from a different perspective. It was a mixture of the ability to build a little bit of confidence in myself and my stuff — the command — after missing all that time and having him there. It kind of made for a perfect storm.

“Being able to get those 30 innings under my belt helped. If I don’t get those 30 innings, I don’t think I’d be able to handle a situation like this.”

Or even get it.

With only about five weeks left in the season there doesn’t seem to be much time to make anything more than an impression. But Simpson plans to make the most of the time he has.

“I’m not really a guy who plans even to think about anything more than two days in advance,” he said. “For me it’s about showing up every day ready to get better, just go out there and give it a a shot and hopefully get out and impress some people and hopefully make a move or two.”

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