Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. San Diego State pitcher Addison Reed understands that fully now, especially after his start against Santa Clara back on March 20.
That's when, in the seventh inning of what would be his fourth win of the season, he reached for a comebacker with his pitching hand. It resulted in a broken pinky that required surgery and pins. Needless to say, when Reed does return, he'll resist the temptation to field anything with his bare hand.
"I"m never going to do that," said Reed, who has started throwing a little now and hopes to be back in another two weeks. "To make it worse, if I hadn't touched it, it would've been a double play. I definitely learned from that. It was out of reaction. Next time, hopefully those reactions don't work."
Aside from that mishap, things have gone remarkably well for Reed in his Draft season. In his first two seasons with Tony Gwynn and the Aztecs, Reed had turned himself into one of the better relievers in the college game. He was 20-for-20 in save opportunities as a sophomore who could crank it up to 96 mph and was in line to be one of the top college closers taken this June.
A funny thing happened on the way to that plan being enacted. About a month before the season kicked off, San Diego State's coaching staff approached the right-hander with an idea. The starting rotation needed help, and since Reed was the best arm on the staff, the proposition was floated to stretch Reed out to become the team's top starting pitcher.
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"I liked the idea," Reed said. "From that point on, I built up into it. It all depended on how I felt. It all felt 100 percent, and I've loved the decision ever since it was made."
It's shown in his performance before his injury. Reed said that it really only took him a start to find a comfort level in his new role. To date, he's gone 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA over five starts. He's held hitters to a .197 average, walked just seven and struck out 36 over 33 1/3 innings. It's as if he was meant to be a starter all along. It really was just a matter of adjusting his pacing. As a closer, he'd go out and just let it fly for a short stint. Now he understands he can still be aggressive, but in a more tempered manner.
"That first one felt a little weird, I didn't know what to expect," Reed said. Now I feel like I'd been doing it my whole life.
"That was the only change I had to make, was not throwing 100 percent, blowing it out that first inning. I'm not exerting as much energy in that first inning as opposed to last year, where I gave it everything I got for that one inning."
Reed certainly isn't the first closer who's been asked to start for his college team. What's set him apart, however, is how comfortable he seems with it, both with his ability to pitch deeper into games and in developing his secondary stuff. As a closer, he could rely solely on his fastball and slider. But Reed very quickly showed a very good feel for a changeup.
"One of the most impressive things he's done this year is effectively mix in an average changeup after converting from a very different role, considering he literally didn't need that pitch for two years," a scout said.
"Throughout high school and at the beginning of my freshman year, I threw a changeup," Reed said. "Then I didn't use it too much my freshman and sophomore year. But I'd work on the grip, I wanted to keep it fresh. Luckily, it stayed with me and I felt comfortable."
There was, obviously, a very large hole in the San Diego State rotation left by a certain Stephen Strasburg. No one expects Reed to fill those very large shoes, but Reed clearly watched and learned from his teammate about how to handle both being the ace of a staff and the scrutiny of increased eyes at every start.
"The biggest thing I learned from him is how he handled all the pressure," Reed said. "With as much hype as he got, most people would've gotten full of themselves or cracked under pressure. If you didn't know much about baseball, you wouldn't know he was getting as much attention as he was. He didn't change. That's what I learned the most, how he kept his cool and didn't let things get to his head. That's what I've tried to incorporate into my game."
And his game now has more than one dimension. Not only has that helped his Aztecs in the here and now, but it's sure to assist his Draft status as well. Teams who thought of Reed only as a short reliever now have more to consider. They can draft a much more polished starter than anyone expected, with the added benefit of having a terrific backup plan if the starting thing doesn't work out.
"When they asked me about the decision, I didn't think about the Draft," Reed said. "Looking back at it, I don't think it will hurt me. When that time comes, we'll see what happens. Ultimately, it will be up to whatever people want me to do.
"Now I feel comfortable in both positions. Now that I'm used to starting, it's nice knowing in the back of my mind, if one doesn't work, I can switch over to the other."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.