Coming off an 8-1 record with a 2.10 ERA
with the Gulf Coast Mets in 2005, Cyclones starting pitcher and Mets 2004 draft pick Jacob Ruckle has picked up right where
he left off last season, throwing 16 consecutive scoreless innings in his last two outings and has a combined 1.89 ERA in
12 appearances with both the Cyclones and the St. Lucie Mets so far this year.
For many young pitchers, such success so
early in their pro careers would be baffling, but Ruckle isn’t like many pitchers his age, insisting that his success
comes from comfort and consistency, rather than streakiness.
“I just try and throw strikes, change
speeds and locate pitches,” said Ruckle after throwing eight innings of shut out ball against the Staten Island Yankees
on July 6. “I did the same thing in St. Lucie and I’ll continue to do the same thing wherever I go.”
Besides having great numbers that cast
a star on him, Ruckle’s delivery on the mound is equally as eye catching, resembling a combination of the “herky-jerky”
delivery of Dontrelle Willis and the high leg kick of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Since Ruckle was called up
a week into the 2006 NY-Penn League season, opposing hitters still haven’t been able to figure him out, having only
16 hits off of him in 20 innings of work. Ruckle attributes the scout that signed him with giving him the idea for his unbelievable
“I have a scout that signed me with
the New York Mets; his name is Dave Birecki,” said Ruckle, who the Mets drafted in the 41st round of the
2004 draft. “When I was just coming out of high school he asked me to try and create some deception or something and
I asked him what I should do and he said, ‘Just try to flare your front arm up,’ and I kind of exaggerated a little
bit and I’ve always had kind of a high leg kick, so I started doing that and I liked it; it felt comfortable right from
the get go. So far it’s worked for me and I’ll continue to use it. I like it, it’s different. You don’t
see any other guy like that.”
While Ruckle gives Birecki credit for helping
him come up with his delivery, he believes Cyclones pitching coach Hector Berrios is responsible for making him a better pitcher.
“Hector has done a great job with
us,” said Ruckle, who in addition to having great poise and stamina on the mound, has great control as well, walking
only seven batters in 70 innings pitched between St. Lucie and the Cyclones this season. “I’ve been fortunate
to have Hector for two years now and he just stresses throwing your change up, which I’ve learned to make my best pitch.”
If having the respect of the Cyclones coaching
staff wasn’t enough, Ruckle’s teammates feel they have a chance to win every time he takes the mound and enjoy
every game they play when he’s on the rubber, signifying just how important he is to the team’s success.
“I played with Ruckle all of last
season and he’s what you don’t see in the minor leagues anymore,” said Cyclones second baseman Jonathan
Schemmel. “He’s kind of old school baseball; he doesn’t throw 95, he doesn’t throw 90 for that matter,
but he knows how to pitch. He’s more of an old school pitcher where he gets guys out with his change up and I love that.
He dominated the Gulf
Coast league last year; he’s dominated in high-A and I think he’s going
to dominate here as he has in his last two starts.”
All Photographs for this article were taken by Conroy Walker