Jeremy Griffiths will make his first-ever start at Fifth Third Field today when he takes the mound for Norfolk against the Mud Hens.
But today's game hardly will be his first appearance as a starting pitcher in Toledo.
The 25-year-old right-hander spent three productive seasons pitching at the University of Toledo, putting together a fine junior season that led the New York Mets to draft him.
And while professional baseball may have taken the pitcher out of Toledo, it hasn't taken Toledo out of the pitcher.
``Coming [to UT] my first two years we were kind of shaky [as a team] because we were lacking some real solid upperclass leadership,” Griffiths said. ``In my third year we had some pretty good leaders in myself, Junie Melendez, Brad Webb and Tommy Johns that decided we would win some games instead of messing around.”
That season the Rockets won 39 games and earned a berth in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Griffiths played a big role in that team's success, winning eight of his nine MAC starts and posting a 1.30 ERA in league games.
On the season Griffiths had an 11-4 record and 2.50 ERA, earning MAC honors as pitcher of the year and a berth on the all-Mideast Region team.
Soon after, the Mets selected Griffiths in the third round of the 1999 free-agent player draft.
Griffiths hasn't disappointed the Mets, either. In four full seasons he hasn't had an ERA above 4.34, and last season he had 126 strikeouts in 1522/3 innings for Double-A Binghamton.
Griffiths enters tonight's game with an 0-1 record and a 5.23 ERA in four appearances for the Tides.
“Jeremy's got good size and he throws the ball hard,” said Norfolk manager Bobby Floyd. “He's got a good, live arm, a good breaking ball and a pretty good change-up.
“But as with any young pitcher in this league, his key is consistency. He's learning, and he's eager to learn, to soak up some of the knowledge of the pitching coaches that have worked with him.”
And even though Griffiths is just four years removed from UT, he knows he is a much different pitcher now.
“I'm more consistent, and I have more pitches,” he said. “In college I had only two pitches, but that was more than enough to get by. Now it's more about putting the ball where you want it.
“It's not about speed, it's about movement and putting the ball where you want it.”
Still, Griffith's memories of Toledo and the University are all good. “My first two years of pro ball I lived here in the off-season because my wife [Courtney] was finishing up her degree here,” he said. “I did a lot of hunting and fishing with Jim Murray, who I played with here.
“Yesterday they were having a scholar-athlete banquet at the Toledo Club, and it was good to see coaches and people like that.”
- JOHN WAGNER
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