*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”
‘Topes closer and 2012 All-Star reliever Josh Wall looks at the upcoming 2012 All-Star Game with the same approach he uses on the mound; Straightforward, focused and ready to take care of business. The 6’6 200-pound right-hander embodies the expression “act like you’ve been there before.”
But he hasn’t.
A second round draft pick (74th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005, Wall is the midst of his eighth professional season in baseball. He’s led his previous teams in starts, innings pitched and complete games, finished ranked second in total strikeouts and consistently climbed Baseball America’s top ranked prospect list. But he’s still never been elected to a professional All-Star team.
“I knew I was having a pretty decent season, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it (All-Star selection),” said Wall. “I’m not nervous at all, just ready to go in, enjoy it and have fun.”
The Isotopes hurler currently leads the Pacific Coast League in games finished (32) and saves (18), and was selected to the PCL’s squad as a relief pitcher. As obvious as his selection may seem, Wall is actually in only his second season working out of the bullpen. From 2005-10, only five of his 95 appearances came in relief, and at the start of the 2011 season, he made the switch from a starter to relief.
“The move to the bullpen was good for me because it really simplified things as far as thinking about pitching,” said Wall. “It was definitely weird at first, but I think I continue to get better and I’m starting to really put it all together on the mound.”
With 11 other pitching prospects on the PCL’s All-Star roster, it’s a guessing game for Wall’s playing time, if he receives any at all. Of course, with this being his first All-Star selection, the closer isn’t about to let thoughts like that ruin his stay in Buffalo, NY on July 11.
“I’m just going to go and have fun and take advantage of the time,” said Wall. “It’ll be a nice opportunity and if I get a chance to pitch, I’ll do it.”
Which means Wall will have to maintain a certain level of mental preparedness just in case his name is called through the bullpen phone. For a newly converted reliever, this can be a big adjustment from knowing exactly when and where you’re scheduled to pitch. Not so much for Wall.
“For me it honestly makes it easier to pitch,” said Wall. “It’s just a little bit different as far as how you take each day, but coming in to close out a game helps me lock in my focus to put the game away.”
It seems only fitting to send the PCL-leading closer to the mound if a save situation arises on July 11. And although it may be his first professional All-Star game, Wall is determined that his confidence won’t let anyone know the difference.
“I expect to do well and have a good inning if I end up pitching,” Wall said. “Hopefully I’ll close it out against the International League.”
Given his season so far, that wouldn’t be a first for him at all.