A change in approach was all University of Kentucky left-hander Logan Salow needed to make his dream come true. After a junior season at UK where Salow posted a solid ERA (3.22) but walked 15 in 22.1 innings, Salow decided to re-discover his aggressiveness during a stint in the summer wood bat Northwoods League.
“For awhile, I felt like I was trying to pitch to miss barrel. I started walking a lot of people because, obviously, a lot of the time when you miss barrel, you are probably out of the ‘zone,” Salow, the Oakland Athletics sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft, said on Wednesday. “I had to get back into an attacking-type mode where I was going to fill up the strike-zone and throw my best pitches and compete with competitive pitches in the ‘zone.”
Salow found instant success with his new mindset. A reliever for most of his college career, Salow was a starter in the Northwoods League and he posted a 3.99 ERA and a 70:21 K:BB in 56.1 innings. Salow then took his aggressive approach with him back to campus for his senior season at Kentucky. That led to a breakout 2017 season in which Salow saved 12 games and posted a 1.95 ERA in 55.1 innings. He struck-out 73 and walked only 17. He was recently named third team All-America by both the NCBWA and Perfect Game/Rawlings.
Salow said attacking the strike-zone early was the key to his big senior season.
“That helped me take off. Getting ahead in the count and then being able to expand the ‘zone down-and-up, that’s really where my strengths came from,” Salow said.
On Tuesday, Salow was rewarded for his breakout season when the A’s selected him with the 171st overall pick. Salow wasn’t drafted out of high school or after his junior season. He says the moment he heard his name called while in his living room during the MLB Network broadcast of the draft was something he will never forget.
“I didn’t get a call beforehand or anything, so we were just sitting here and mingling and the next thing you know, I heard my name across the TV. We all jumped up and shouted and things like that,” Salow said. “It’s surreal. You only dream about it when you are growing up. There for awhile I didn’t know if it was a dream I was going to be able to pursue. I had a couple of successful years and everything fell into place to where I was going to have the opportunity. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to the game. At the end of the day, it’s a lifetime dream come true when you hear your name called. It’s pretty cool.”
Longtime A’s scout Rich Sparks will be Salow’s signing scout. Salow said he heard from Sparks soon after he was selected.
“He said he had drafted UK guys before and he liked them, so that was pretty neat,” Salow said. “Obviously it was a surreal experience and it was something I’ll never forget.”
Salow was the Wildcats’ primary closer this season, a new role for the lefty. He excelled with the game on the line, tying the Kentucky single season save record with 12. Salow says he enjoyed the pressure of trying to lock down wins.
“To be a part of the game when it is on the line and all eyes are on you, it’s pretty special. There is something to be said about getting that last out and getting to celebrate with your teammates. It’s just an awesome moment,” Salow said. “To get to do it over-and-over again at the end of a game this season was something that I took to heart and thought was really awesome. They told me I was going to be a closer and I took it and ran with it and enjoyed it as much as I could.”
As a lefty, Salow had to face many right-handed hitters in pressure situations this season. He says pitching against right-handers doesn’t phase him.
“I feel like sometimes my movement is a little bit deceptive. There’s not a whole lot there, but I tend to pitch well in the bottom of the ‘zone to the point that I tend to run people out of bats. That’s where my confidence lies,” Salow said. “Obviously left-on-right isn’t the ideal scenario for a left-handed pitcher in the ninth inning, however, when you do it often and you get comfortable enough, righty-versus lefty isn’t something that you think about on the mound. In terms of attacking the ‘zone, it doesn’t really change, but every now and then, if I need to go get it, I’ll go with a sinker on the outside corner and try to run them out of bat, but other than that, your approach doesn’t really change that much.”
Salow points to his slider as his out-pitch, but says everything starts with commanding his fastball. In professional baseball, he plans to work more on his change-up, which he didn’t use much in game situations at UK.
“Out of the ‘pen a lot of times you tend to stick with your best two pitches. Right now, my change-up is my third-best pitch,” Salow said. “We have been developing it all year in flat grounds and bullpens but it really hasn’t gotten to a game scenario because I haven’t had that many reps with it in the game. A lot of times, your margin of error for throwing a change-up in the ninth inning is not big. I would say that would be the pitch that has to be developed a little bit.”
Salow’s success as a starter in the Northwoods League has led to some speculation that he could be tried as a starter in professional baseball despite his almost exclusive work as a reliever in college. Salow is ready for whatever the A’s throw at him.
“Getting a chance to play the game that I love is number one right now. Honestly, I think that I want to pitch wherever they want to put me. I just want to get on the field as much as possible,” Salow said. “Whatever my role may be, I’m just ready for that. I enjoyed both. I got to taste a little bit of success in both, so I’m confident in any role that I get put in. That’s what helps me and what set me apart a little bit.”
Salow finished his UK career third all-time in program history with 94 appearances. As one of the most experienced players on the roster, Salow took on a leadership role with the Wildcats the past two seasons.
“Both of the coaches that I have had the past two years pitching-wise have given me the reins to get with the younger guys and do my own thing – under their supervision, of course. It’s not like I’m running the staff, because that is their job, but they will say ‘the lefties are going to go with Logan and you are going to work on picks and all of that kind of stuff,’” Salow said. “They trusted me enough and I had enough experience that they kind of gave me the reins with a lot of the lefties. I think that that really helps when teams have players who can coach themselves and help themselves. Those are the teams you see having a lot of success and obviously our team had a lot of success this year.”
When Salow arrives in professional baseball, he will have a good source of information about the A’s organization. His UK roommate JaVon Shelby was the A’s fifth-round pick last season. Salow says Shelby reached out to him soon after he was selected.
“He texted me right away. He was really excited,” Salow said. “It is going to be really cool to be reunited with him and be in the same organization. We texted back-and-forth and he reached out to me and told me if there was anything I needed help with along the way, just the ins-and-outs, that’s he’s there. He’s an absolutely amazing teammate and I’m really excited to play with him again.”
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