After stalling in his development as a starter in the minor leagues, Josh Wall moved to the bullpen after the 2010 season. The 2005 second round pick has found success as a reliever and is turning heads in Dodgers camp this year.
"The move to the bullpen for me was the best thing that ever happened," Wall said. "It's just a better mentality for me, coming in and letting it fly for an inning and being real aggressive."
After four combined years in both levels of Class-A, Wall progressed into the bullpen in Double-A Chattanooga in 2011, and became the closer in 2012 for Triple-A Albuquerque, where he was managed by Lorenzo Bundy.
"The big thing with Josh was confidence. But once he had success early on," Bundy said. "Josh did a great job for us. He's pretty much a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and slider, with a swing-and-miss slider. Sometimes the command issues show up, but by being thrown in the fire all year, pitching in the ninth inning and saving games, helped him a lot."
Wall said he learned the slider once he switched to the bullpen, and it has served him well. He saved 28 games for the Isotopes last year and struck out nearly a batter an inning. He had a 4.53 ERA but it was in one of the most hitter friendly environments in the hitter friendly PCL.
"A lot of times in Albuquerque, things can get a little rough, especially for a pitcher," Bundy said. "For a reliever it's a little bit tougher because you don't get out there every day."
Wall tried his best to not let the offensive environment affect his preparation.
"I just went out and did the same thing I would have done," Wall said. "I heard a lot about Albuquerque, and it being a hitters park, but I didn't let it change or bother anything that I was going to do."
Last year was also a first for Wall, as noted in his 2012 player profile:
In seven years in the Dodgers minor league system, Wall has never been promoted during a season. Wherever he has began each year, that's where he ended it. Can he buck that trend in 2012 and ride the oft-used Chattanooga-to-Los Angeles train?
The travel was Albuquerque to Los Angeles, but Wall in 2012 did get his first in-season promotion. He put up a 4.76 ERA in seven games in his first major league stint. Manager Don Mattingly thinks that first taste of the big leagues lit a fire under Wall.
"He's one of those guys who once they got the big leagues, you never know what you're going to get when they get there, but they get that winter they have a chance," Mattingly said. "They go to the winter thinking they know what it's like, so it's not just spring training (they shoot for). It's the big leagues."
Wall retired the first 10 batters he faced this spring, before allowing three straight singles to Texas on Thursday. But he recovered to get five straight outs after that, and so far this spring has a 1.80 ERA with no walks, and has struck out seven of the 18 batters he has faced.
"He's more focused on what he wants to do," Mattingly said. "He's sped up his delivery from the standpoint of the running game, and he's been throwing the ball well."
Bundy sees it too.
"He has been a lot better in this major league camp than when he saw him last year," Bundy said. "What we've noticed in this major league camp is that his command has been super. He's been down in the strike zone and hasn't been quite as erratic as he was for us in Albuquerque last year."
The Dodgers have several relief pitchers gunning for likely two spots in the bullpen, including Javy Guerra, Shawn Tolleson, Paco Rodriguez, and non-roster pitchers Kevin Gregg, Peter Moylan, and Mark Lowe. Wall isn't often mentioned in that group, but he has certainly pitched himself into that mix.
"The way he's thrown the ball, you have to look at him. He's a guy on the roster, who came out of a closer's role last year. He's got power stuff and a power breaking ball. He's a young kid with a good arm, and it seems like he's progressing to that next level," Mattingly said. "He's throwing the ball well, there is no reason not to look at him."
For Wall, even if he doesn't make the opening day roster, he'll likely pitch for the Dodgers at some point in 2013. What he is doing in spring is putting his name first and foremost in management's mind.
"The number one goal is to make the team, but if not you definitely want to have a strong showing so if they do need somebody your name is the first to come up," Wall said.
After a week into his first major league call-up and not pitching at all, Wall made his major league debut last July 22 at Citi Field against the Mets. He pitched a scoreless inning and picked up the win, the first Dodgers pitcher to pick up a win in relief in his major league debut since Tim Belcher on September 6, 1987.
Wall has 44 days of service time, and has two option years remaining.
Previous Player Profiles
2012: New hope with a new role
|2011 (AA - Chattanooga)
|2012 (AAA - Albuquerque)
|2013 Projections - Age 26 Season|
Wall is going to see big league time this season, but it's just a matter of when. I think he puts up a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings, with 23 strikeouts.
Be sure to guess how you think Wall will perform for the Dodgers in 2013. Include ERA and whatever else you wish to guess.