Despite just recently joining the Cyclones in the second half of May, relief pitcher Grant Hartwig has already established himself as maybe the team’s most important bullpen arm.
“I love pitching in high leverage situations,” Hartwig said. “I love having the team counting on me for some big innings and being able to step up and obviously help the team win in any way I can. Obviously, those are the biggest innings, in close games, and there’s no other place I’d rather be.”
From his very first game with the Brooks, he was sent out to save the game, and he did just that after 1.1 innings of work without being charged with an earned run.
Manager Luis Rivera said he put him in that spot right away because he was told that was the role Hartwig had in Low-A. He had three saves in St. Lucie, including two in his last four appearances.
“We lost a couple of guys going to Double-A, so there you go, that was his opportunity,” Rivera said. “And since I put him in that role, he’s been doing very, very well. So he’s staying there for now.”
Rivera, along with pitching coach A.J. Sager, touted Hartwig’s stuff as one of the main reasons he’s been trusted with the high leverage situations.
“He’s got a mid-90s sinker and he’s got a slider that plays off that very well, and then a changeup that he mixes in,” Sager said.
Which of those pitches does Hartwig trust the most to get him out of a jam?
“That’s been a real big development thing for me this year,” Hartwig said. “Just working on that slider, playing off my sinker, and I’ve had a lot of success and I feel very comfortable with it, even throwing it bases-loaded, full count.”
Of course, it doesn’t just take stuff to be a high-leverage pitcher. It takes a certain mindset and makeup, which he has.
Sager said he’s a very mature pitcher and has the intangibles it takes to be successful.
“He just has a slow heartbeat, Sager said. “He’s able to slow the game down, and that’s an important thing if you get into leverage situations. Sometimes guys can get caught up in the speed of the game, get outside of themselves. And Grant doesn’t do that. He’s been able to go out there and just focus on one pitch at a time.”
Rivera, echoed that of Sager, saying that his mindset while on the mound is one of the main reasons he’s been trusted in the big spots.
“His preparation is pretty good, the way he goes about his work is pretty good, and then when he’s on the mound, he’s going after it,” Rivera said. “It’s like, his demeanor, his presence, it’s like he’s going to war.”
Through Wednesday he now has six saves for the Cyclones — and nine on the year when factoring in three he earned in Low-A St. Lucie. In fact, he’s been the final pitcher Brooklyn used in all nine of his appearances since his promotion and has only appeared in one loss. Even that loss was close, as he pitched a scoreless top of the ninth in a game they were trailing by just one. Essentially, if the game is late and close, Hartwig is the man on the mound.
“That’s the stuff that I love, I feed off of that kind of stuff,” Hartwig said. “I feed off those situations, high leverage, high pressure and it really hasn’t been that much of a big jump for me, because they’ve kind of been grooming me for that in the situations I was put in in Low-A. I feel a lot more comfortability coming in here and doing that right away. It’s honestly a compliment, to be able to be put in those situations and perform.”
In 13 innings for the Cyclones, he’s given up just one run, good for a 0.69 ERA. He’s struck out 22 and given up just seven hits and four walks, making for a really impressive stretch in his first handful of outings in High-A. He has the lowest ERA of anyone currently on the team with multiple games under their belt, along with the lowest WHIP (0.85), best K/9 (15.23), and third-lowest batting average against (.156). He even has one of Brooklyn’s three successful pickoffs all season.
He is, without a doubt, the team’s closer.
“It’s awesome, it’s a rush to do something like that,” Hartwig said. “It’s not comparable to anything, really. It’s baseball in its purest form, just mano a mano, one-on-one where it really matters, and it’s awesome.”