Heading into his first spring training with the Houston Astros organization, pitcher Adam Bleday is aiming to climb multiple rungs on the minor league ladder during the 2018 campaign.
Bleday, a 2013 graduate of Titusville High School, had quite the “freshman” season during his first professional year in the minor leagues in 2017.
After being drafted by the Astros with their 27th round pick in late June, the southpaw was assigned to the club’s rookie-level team, the Greeneville Astros. Bleday quickly found success, striking out 35 batters in 29 2/3 innings. From July 10 to Aug. 8, he did not allow an earned run over 22 1/3 innings during that five-game span.
The next day, Aug. 9, Bleday earned his first promotion within the Astros’ organization, being called-up to the Tri-City ValleyCats — a Single-A team in the New York-Penn League. The 23-year old finished out the 2017 season in Tri-City, and struck out a career-high eight hitters during his Aug. 26 appearance against the Lowell Spinners — the third time he hit that mark in his first year.
With the 2017 season in the rear view mirror, Bleday is hoping to continue working his way through the Astros’ minor league teams in order to reach the ultimate goal of donning a Major League uniform.
“I feel good and strong,” Bleday told The Herald. “I definitely feel better than last year at this point. I’d like to keep advancing throughout the season. I don’t want to put a class affiliate on it, but AA is right there in the near future, hopefully. Once you get to AA, the big leagues are right around the corner.”
In order to put himself in the best position to excel in 2018, Bleday put in the work over the offseason. Although he rested his arm from throwing during the two months that followed the end of the season, Bleday worked extensively with his trainer in Panana City Beach, Fla., to get his body into shape for spring training.
“When I got back, I started working out with my trainer,” Bleday said. “He took me through my lifts, working out three days a week, while doing some yoga. I took two months off from throwing, and ever since mid-December, I’ve been throwing with my buddy, [Austin Bizzle], who’s with the [Minnesota] Twins.”
It might be shocking to hear that a pitcher would want to take time off from throwing, but according to Bleday, it’s necessary in order to prevent injury.
“It’s very important,” Bleday said of resting his arm. “You can open yourself to injury if you throw all year long. It’s not necessary because your arm needs a break, especially after throwing 100 innings throughout the season. It’s good to give those muscles a rest while getting in shape for next season. Using cross training, which gets your lower half and core stronger, it’s a good time to rebuild throughout that phase [of the offseason].”
With the proper amount of rest and work being put in during the offseason, Bleday is ready for his first spring training of is career. At this time last year, the THS grad was finishing out his senior season at the University of Virginia. Now, Bleday is looking to impress the coaching staff of an organization that is coming off of winning the World Series.
Although it will be his first camp, Bleday feels that he is “prepared” for what’s to come over the course of the next six weeks until the regular season begins.
“I’ve talked with some of my buddies who have been with the organization for a few years,” Bleday said. “They just said it’s a grind, pretty much 30 days straight of baseball. You’re up early in the morning and are done by 3 p.m. I’m prepared for a lot of baseball, and to get ready for the season. It’s what this time is for.”
The Houston Astros get ready for the upcoming season in West Palm Beach, Fla., and share a complex with the Washington Nationals. With the Astros coming off their World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in November, the team will be eyeing a repeat, and Bleday expects camp to full of “hype.”
“There is going to be some hype at spring training, for sure,” Bleday said. “It’s an honor to be with an organization that’s the top of the line. From winning the World Series, last year, they’re doing something right. You have to trust their process, and believe in what the coaches are telling you, and get better from there.”
Bleday has already seen the affect of what the Astros’ organization can do for his development into a legitimate prospect. The southpaw, who admitted that he is “not an overpowering guy,” has seen his strikeout rate increase. Seeing the tips implemented from the coaching staff pay dividends, Bleday has felt “confident” and “encouraged” about fitting into the organization’s future plans.
“[The Astros] have their methods and philosophies, and that’s what a lot of the success stems from,” Bleday said. “They want strikeouts for pitchers and home runs for hitters. Those are the two most valuable things you could contribute. I’m not an overpowering guy, but throwing certain pitches in certain counts, and using your fastball to work off that, is very valuable. You don’t have to being a 98 mph thrower.”
Coming into camp, Bleday is well aware that he might have the chance to show the Major League coaching staff what he can bring to the club. Although Bleday wasn’t invited to Major League camp, there is the possibility that he could pitch in an MLB spring training contest.
“That would be awesome, and is a definite goal this year,” Bleday said. “I look at it as going out there with nothing to lose. You go out there and compete, and show them what you got.”
If that moment comes, Bleday will be more than ready.
However, no matter who he faces — Major Leaguers or not — the University of Virginia grad has the same goal, attacking the hitter.
“I want to challenging hitters,” Bleday said. “I have to keep developing each pitch. Last year, I definitely developed my changeup, and it looks like this year will be the curveball. Staying focused and having a good mentality going into each game will be key.”