RiverDogs call up former USC star Widener

Former South Carolina pitcher Taylor Widener is struggling this season with the Arizona Diamondbacks' Double-A team in the Pacific Coast League. File/Staff

Sometimes all a player needs is a change of scenery.

Just ask CC Sabathia, the longtime New York Yankee pitcher who the Cleveland Indians traded midseason in 2008 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Before the trade, Sabathia had posted a 6-8 record with a 3.83 ERA for Cleveland. After the deal, he finished the season with an 11-2 record and a 1.65 ERA.

The turnaround was so significant that Sabathia finished sixth in MVP voting that year and fifth in the Cy Young race.

The point is, the future hall of famer needed a change. And history is littered with similar examples.

As the MLB Trade Deadline nears on July 31, the same could be true for former South Carolina pitcher Taylor Widener.

‘Pry him from the D-backs’

In a July 18 article on MLB.com, writers named one player per franchise that could – or rather, should – be on the move before the trade deadline.

For the Arizona Diamondbacks, they chose Widener, an Aiken native who pitched for the Gamecocks from 2014 to 2016.

They mentioned how great he was for the Yankees, who took him in the 12th round of the 2016 draft.

That includes a brief, but impressive seven-game stint with the Charleston RiverDogs in 2016. Through 23 innings of work with New York's Class A affiliate, Widener posted a 1-0 record with a 0.78 ERA and 34 strikeouts.

The article also mentions how solid he was last year in his first season in the Arizona farm system after New York traded him in February 2018.

“After a dominant 2018 campaign in Double-A, Widener has been roughed up this season,” the story said.

Still, the experts were quick to mention Widener’s 10.8 punchouts per nine innings. Through Friday, his 102 strikeouts ranked third in the entire league.

“A team that believes it can get the 24-year-old right-hander back on track could attempt to pry him from the D-backs,” they added.

First-half struggles

Earlier this month, Widener was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for his performances in two games during the week of June 24-30.

In two starts, he fanned 14 batters and allowed just two hits in 11 innings.

But that stellar week has been an anomaly for Widener. This season, he’s 6-6 through 20 starts with an 8.17 ERA.

That said, Widener still has a ton of value. Ahead of the season, he was Arizona’s No. 3 prospect.

There’s a good chance Widener will break through into the majors at some point. But one more change of scenery could punch that ticket a little earlier than expected.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry

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