Asher Wojciechowski took the mound at Riley Park once again, memories flooding his mind as he pitched against Citadel batters in a recent scrimmage.
Bulldogs on the brinkFour former Citadel player begin the season hoping for a call-up to the major league level:Pos. Player Org. CommentRHP Asher Wojciechowski Astros Traded from Jays last year1B Chris McGuiness Indians Claimed in Rule 5 draftOF Chris Swauger Cardinals Ended last year in AAA3B Dallas McPherson Dodgers Signed minor-league contract
“It always bring back memories when I come back to this ballpark,” said Wojciechowski, known as “Wojo” during his pitching career at The Citadel.
A first-round MLB draft pick in 2010, Wojciechowski may be poised to make new memories in 2013. Traded from Toronto to the Houston Astros last year, the 6-4, 235-pound right-hander should begin this year in Double-A or Triple-A.
That means a 2013 call-up to the big leagues is not out of the question.
“I try not to think about that,” said Wojciechowski, who turned 24 in December. “I just try to stay focused day by day and do what I can do to get better. When that day comes, I’ll handle it.”
Wojciechowski handled his first brush with the business side of baseball last season, when he was dealt from Toronto, the club that drafted him, to Houston.
He was 7-3 with a 3.57 ERA at Single-A Dunedin when he was traded late in the season. In eight starts at the Astros’ Double-A club in Corpus Christi, he went 2-2 with a sparkling 2.06 ERA.
“I got a phone call and they told me I was traded,” he said. “The next day, I’m on a plane to Texas. That’s just how it works. They move guys around every day.”
The trade might accelerate Wojo’s rise to the majors. The Blue Jays, adopting a “win now” philosophy, have traded away four pitching prospects in the last year. stockpiling veterans such as Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
“The Astros probably could not have been a better club for Wojo to end up with,” said Citadel coach Fred Jordan. “They have a power-oriented pitching philosophy, and that’s right up his alley.”
Wojciechowski survived an early attempt by the Blue Jays to tinker with his arm slot and the grip on his slider, leading to an 11-9 mark and 4.70 ERA in 2011, his first full season in the minors.
“That just didn’t work for me,” said Wojciechowski, who is ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in the Astros’ organization. “But it also taught me what I need to do to get better, and what I need to stick to and not change.”
Wojciechowski, who graduated from Beaufort High School, rents a house on James Island during the off-season and makes The Citadel his base for workouts. He’ll head next week to spring training in Kissimmee, Fla.
“I feel very confident that if he throws the ball the way he did at the end of last season, this year could be his call up,” Jordan said. “To me, he is a big league team’s No. 3 starter, and I think that’s where he’ll wind up if he stays healthy.”
Wojciechowski is not the only Bulldog who could be on the brink of a call-up this season:
First baseman Chris McGuiness (James Island High School) was selected by Cleveland in the Rule 5 draft and will get a chance to make the Indians’ big-league club this spring. He batted .268 with 23 homers and 77 RBI in 123 Double-A games last year.
Outfielder Chris Swauger batted .296 with 13 homers and 60 RBI in 85 Double-A games for the Cardinals in his fourth full season before a brief promotion to Triple-A at the end of the year.
Dallas McPherson, 32 and with his seventh organization, signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers earlier this month.