Seth McClung came into training camp this year knowing that his back was against the wall. The number of openings on the Devil Rays pitching staff was going to be scarce. Its been quite a journey just getting back to this point for the 24 year old 6-foot-6 right handed pitcher. McClung went down with an elbow injury in 2003 which caused him to make an abrupt exit in the middle of his rookie season. That year he made the team out of spring training as a relief pitcher on Lou's first opening day roster.
Since I am a Devil Rays fanatic, I have been following his career for a while. But, this week when I met him in person I found out he is as good of a guy as he is a player. He is really an outgoing person who likes to interact with the fans, teammates, Devil Rays staff, the list goes on. "I remember what it was like as a kid being a fan of the major league players and I try to not act like I am above people just because I am a player." This down to earth nature that Seth has is because he is a product of his parents who just instilled those type of values in him. He grew up with a family with brothers where sports were a big part. In fact, he said that his brother Marcus played at Virigina Tech on the football team. Seth McClung is heavily involved with community programs. He is the founder of the West Virginia Rush Athletes program. This is a program that he says is "close to my heart, I like to put a smile on the kids face, to effect kids, give back to them." Seth lived in Lewisburg, West Virginia where he played multiple sports and he graduated from Greenbrier East High.
I asked him about last year what it was like pitching the first year after the Tommy John elbow surgery. "It hurt when I pitched, but I just willed my way to pitch, just found a way to pitch". He says the fear of just being an average pitcher is what drives him. He said prior to the surgery the arm had been troubling him the past two and half years until finally the day in 2003 when it popped. Seth says that finally today it does not hurt when he pitches. "I use the two seamer, and I have figured out the changeup, and my curve ball has come back". It is clearly apparent that Seth is a more complete pitcher than he was in his first go around. He used one word to describe what the rehab process was like: "PATIENCE".
I got into the wins and losses on the field. This is when I saw the same spirit that drives him to not back down from a challenge. McClung wants to win: "We should not be complacent now that they got to 70 wins. Even 80 wins should not be the number, we should set our sights higher than that, 80 wins just gets us third place and third place sucks, we should shoot for first place." In case you were wondering what Seth's favorite teams were growing up were, it was the Yankees and Braves in baseball, Cowboys in football, and Duke in college basketball. All winners!
This spring has started off very well on the pitching mound for Seth. When the spring started he was just one of the many arms who was trying to make an impression on the Devil Rays staff. He has yet to start a game, but he has pitched seven innings and has an ERA of 2.57. I asked him if they were planning on using him as a starter or a reliever. Seth indicated the way it looks now is as a starter. Seth said, "The only time in my career I really have been a reliever was my rookie year, other than that I have always been a starting pitcher". Seth just wants full season to show this organization what he can bring to the table. He hopes he can be part of this young pitching staff that comes up together, learn in majors, and has the guys in minors pushing at the staff in the majors.
Seth knew exactly when he would be pitching next. He will be getting the start on this Friday night. It will be a chance to be the surprise pitcher of the staff once again if he continues with this type of success in my opinion. Seth knows what his numbers look like inside out, and he keeps a good eye what is being written about him in the cyberspace. He hopes to prove Laura Baldwin from the Devil rays message board wrong.