Zach McAllister: “[Confidence] is probably one of the biggest things you can have as an athlete.”
After struggling in his Major League debut in 2011, Indians pitcher Zach McAllister’s confidence has him in a groove in the big leagues.
The Tribe acquired McAllister from the Yankees in a 2010 trade that sent outfielder Austin Kearns to New York. The trade evidently paid off for Cleveland, where McAllister has been thriving on the mound in recent starts.
McAllister was called up to the Major Leagues on July 7, 2011, when he started and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks in four innings. McAllister had been told prior to the outing that it was a spot start, and he would be sent down to Columbus following the game.
“Obviously, I think I would have liked to pitch a little better in my debut,” McAllister said. “It was like a little kid, his dream finally came true. You had all those nerves and everything, and you try to keep them calm and just try to perform. It was really exciting for me.”
The Indians did defeat Toronto 5-4 in the game, however, and McAllister’s family made the eight-hour drive from Chillicothe, IL, to see him after his first start.
“I have a lot of friends and family members from back home that came up to the game, so that was kind of a surprise to see all of them after the game,” he said.
McAllister, 24, made three additional starts last season and worked hard this offseason to remain consistent with his pitches.
The Indians called him up again for a day-night doubleheader versus the White Sox on May 7, 2012, and he wound up starting three more games in place of then-injured Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin. McAllister was most recently called up to replace struggling Indians pitcher Jeanmar Gomez.
In three games since being called up, McAllister is 2-0 and has allowed just five earned runs in 17.1 innings against the likes of the Orioles, Angels, and Rays. He said he credits his consistency for his extended stay in Cleveland.
“This year, it’s just being a little more consistent with all my pitches and being able to execute them when I need to. That was my biggest thing last year,” he said. “I think there are a lot of guys that are talented enough to be here, but they’re not consistent enough. That kind of hurts them a little bit.”
McAllister said he has made an effort to develop a relationship with his catchers and his fellow starting pitchers in his short stint with the club this season.
“[Indians catchers Carlos Santana and Lou Marson] are the ones that are back there every day trying to catch you. It’s just being able to sit down and talk to them and going over what you want to do and being able to have a normal conversation with them on the bench,” he said. “That’s a work in progress, but it’s coming along.
“All of the [starting pitchers] have helped me in some sort of way, whether it’s talking to me or just being able to watch them during the game and see how they go about their business.”
McAllister’s performance has eliminated a portion of uncertainty as he has settled in as a critical component of the Indians starting rotation. The Indians will need McAllister to continue his run throughout the second half in order to remain in contention.
“It’s definitely a little more enjoyable being able to come to the field every day and not have to worry about getting called to the office and being sent down,” McAllister said. “I can’t just go out and pitch and expect to get by. I have to perform, and if I don’t, I know I can get sent down. It’s a challenge, but I look forward to that challenge.”
McAllister said confidence has been a large reason for his success thus far as he looks to remain in the win column for the Tribe.
“[Confidence] is probably one of the biggest things you can have as an athlete. You might not have the best stuff, but if you’re confident that what you have is going to get guys out, then you’re going to be successful the majority of the time,” he said. “I’ve been able to have a pretty good confidence up here, so I just want to stay on that, get on a roll, and keep it going.”
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor