GRINDING IT OUT

Mustangs pitcher Donnie Joseph seems to be adjusting well to life in professional baseball

2009-07-15T00:40:00Z Mustangs pitcher Donnie Joseph seems to be adjusting well to life in professional baseballGREG RACHAC Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
July 15, 2009 12:40 am  • 

The daily grind has been the biggest adjustment so far for Billings Mustangs relief pitcher Donnie Joseph.

A third-round draft choice by the Cincinnati Reds in June, Joseph came to Billings from the University of Houston where he was an All-Conference USA closer.

The left-hander walked into the Mustangs clubhouse in June and was ready for anything.

But the newer, more-everyday pattern took him by surprise.

"Back in school you go to class, you go eat and you come to the ballpark," Joseph said last week at Dehler Park. "But at this level you're here all day long."

And Joseph has no qualms with it whatsoever.

"I like that a lot," he said. "This is the only thing to do all day. I've been getting used to the routine of throwing more and doing things all day. I love the game. It's nice."

Entering tonight's game against Orem - which is the first of a seven-game home stand - Joseph is the highest-drafted player on the Mustangs' roster.

To this point he has performed like it.

Joseph has forged a 2-1 record with a 1.05 ERA in six appearances. He has struck out nine and walked four, allowing just one earned run.

"I'm still getting used to the hitters, the wood bats and a few different things," Joseph said. "I'm the kind of guy that tries to be a perfectionist. I try to have the best possible outing every time."

Joseph has been sharp so far, but he had a performance earlier in the season that was far from perfect.

It was the ninth inning of a July 2 game against Helena at Dehler Park. Joseph was coming off a stellar debut a week prior in which he threw two flawless innings of relief while striking out five.

But this night would turn out different.

Joseph uncorked a pair of wild pitches and gave up two runs on the heels of two fielding errors as the Mustangs lost 5-4.

Joseph took his first loss and blew his first save in the process.

"There's always going to be good days and bad days," Joseph said. "After that first outing I was real excited and confident about it.

"But I liked that other outing better because I learned from it. I learned what to do differently. You don't really learn sometimes from the good outings. I'm not really pleased that it happened, but it was good because I can learn from it."

That mentality is only part of what makes Joseph tough.

Joseph's fastball sits somewhere in the low 90s and has great movement. When it's on, his slider is nasty. He considers it his "out" pitch.

And being a southpaw, those attributes make Joseph a hot commodity for the Reds.

But Mustangs manager Julio Garcia said the goal for the Mustangs is to give Joseph enough experience in order for him to harness his prolific arsenal to be dominant at the professional level.

"He's got a live fastball and a good breaking pitch," Garcia said. "It's a matter of going out and being able to control and command both those pitches in the strike zone. And that comes with work and with innings."

Prior to signing with the Reds, Joseph finished his junior season at Houston with 11 saves, the most on the team and the third-most in a season in Cougars history.

The Buda, Texas, native ended with an ERA of 2.16 in 50 innings, and went 3-1 with a team-best 75 strikeouts.

But Joseph, soft-spoken and humble, knows that no matter his past success, he's starting over now.

And he's ready to battle his way to the top.

"The person that looks at me the most is myself," Joseph said. "I told myself when I walked into this clubhouse that it doesn't matter who was drafted where. We're all the same.

"I'm out there trying to fight for a spot and pitch the best I can. I have individual goals that I want to achieve."

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