CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Bryce Conley’s month of June has been representative of his first full professional season in a nutshell with the peaks and valleys one should expect 12 months after being drafted.
The Oakland A’s 22nd-round pick in 2017 out of Georgia State has tried to keep attacking each start with a clear head, although that can sometimes be difficult with the mixed results.
“Throughout any baseball season, there are many ups and downs,” Conley said. “This is my first full season of professional baseball, so I’m learning as I go. You’ll go through spurts where you’ll pitch well for a couple outings and you’ll go through spurts where you get roughed up a little bit. It’s really learning to stay level-headed, especially during the highs and lows, to try to stay consistent and get better throughout the year.”
His four starts this month certainly put that mindset to the test, as the 23-year-old right-hander was solid in outings on June 6th at Cedar Rapids and June 21st in Quad Cities but didn’t last long in his others on June 13th on the road in Peoria and June 26th at Cedar Rapids.
Conley was at his best throughout his initial start against the Kernels, scattering a pair of hits and three walks in 6.2 shutout innings. He struck out a season-high 10 that night. Against the River Bandits, Conley made it into the sixth inning while allowing just two earned runs on six hits and striking out three.
However, in his other two starts of the month Conley went just 5.2 combined innings and surrendered seven runs on seven hits. He managed to strike out nine but issued five walks.
The Snapper starter is trying to find more consistency by getting off to better starts to games.
“You try to pitch as long as you can and give your team the best chance to win,” Conley said. “It’s really just taking it one inning and one pitch at a time and not getting too far ahead of yourself. Right now, we have an emphasis on that first inning and winning that first inning and every one after that.”
Conley has started 12 of the 14 games he’s appeared in this season, compiling a 3-4 record and 4.70 ERA. He has a 68:27 K:BB rate in 59.1 innings, as opposing batters are hitting .227 against him.
Now up to a four-pitch arsenal, Conley continues to work to master everything he’s throwing at opposing teams every fifth day.
“The cutter has come a long way for me and that’s really my go-to pitch right now,” he said. “I’m trying to mix it up pretty evenly with the change-up, curveball and fastball. I feel pretty comfortable with all four of those pitches right now.”
Conley said his newest pitch is one he didn’t start tinkering with until the end of last summer. It was a welcome addition for a pitcher who struggled at short-season Vermont, allowing 17 earned runs on 21 hits in 25 innings and posting a 28:23 K:BB rate.
“It was about the last two weeks of the season and I went to instructs and developed a cutter,” Conley said. “My last two outings, I was talking to Gil [Patterson, A’s minor league pitching coordinator] and we were playing around with it. I threw a couple really good ones and a couple really bad ones.
“I knew there was some potential with that pitch, so this offseason I really worked on it. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’ve polished it a little bit better. I am throwing it for strikes when I want and put people away when I want. It’s been good to get people off my fastball.”
As Conley gets more comfortable with his new mix, he hopes to improve his consistence during July and August to put himself in line for a promotion to High-A ball.
“I just want to finish strong,” he said. “I try not to look at too many statistics and just go out there and execute each pitch. There’s always a goal in my mind – keep the walks, strikeouts up and ERA down.”
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