Spotlight shining brightly on Broadway
First-round pick's instincts should serve him well
CHICAGO -- The word is "pitchability," and it won't be found in even the most thorough of dictionaries. That's probably because pitchability isn't really a word.
It's more of a descriptive term, unique to the game of Major League Baseball. If a particular hurler has this pitchability, it usually indicates that he doesn't possess a fastball able to whiz by hitters at 95-to-100 mph on a consistent basis. Bobby Jenks has raw firepower, for example, with a hint of pitchability.
In the converse, pitchability also means this man on the mound understands the job at hand. He knows how to attack the hitters within the zone. He knows how to change speeds. Simply put, he realizes what has to be done in order to give his team a chance to win games.
Mark Buehrle has used pitchability to become one of the steadiest left-handers in all of baseball. Greg Maddux will take pitchability all the way to baseball's Hall of Fame, with a stop at 318 victories on the way.
And now Lance Broadway can be added to the pitchability list.
Actually, Broadway doesn't have a very extensive resume where professional pitching is concerned. Just 11 starts in 2005 at Class A Winston-Salem and a few recent weeks in the Arizona Instructional League after the White Sox selected him 15th overall during this year's First-Year Player Draft. Yet, Broadway, 22, already has the confidence of a seasoned veteran.
That belief in one's own ability remains essential in achieving not just pitchability, but a profitable Major League career. Yet, Broadway fully comprehends there's a long way to go before he accomplishes the ultimate pitching goal.
"The biggest thing I learned from this past season is that I still have a lot to learn," Broadway told MLB.com by phone from a recent Dallas Mavericks game. "But after my first few starts, I knew I belonged.
"I knew my stuff played at this level. I also knew that my stuff wouldn't overpower guys. I understood quickly that I have to be aggressive within the zone and do whatever I could to get outs."
Broadway finished his junior year at TCU in 2005 as the Conference USA Pitcher of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year. He was a first-team All-American, according to Louisville Slugger and Baseball America, and was a finalist for three separate national awards.
There also was the little matter of his amazing statistics, posting a 15-1 record, with a 1.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts over 117 innings pitched. Not bad for a right-hander whose fastball regularly topped out in the high 80s and low 90s.
Moving to the Minor League ranks, starting off in a Carolina League full of top prospects, immediately gave Broadway the understanding that baseball life was slightly different outside of Texas. Collegiate hitters, who previously expanded their collective strike zone to help out Broadway on pitches he tried to elevate, had morphed into somewhat polished professionals who knew what pitches to lay off.
As Broadway mentioned, he did find success for the Warthogs. He pitched every nine days to reduce the wear and tear on his arm after a long season, a tough task for someone who is used to pitching, by Broadway's estimation, on a steady five-day schedule. Despite struggling during his final few starts, when fatigue finally set in, Broadway still finished with a 4.58 ERA in 11 starts and struck out 58 over 55 innings.
The effort earned high marks from the White Sox brass.
"He's everything we thought he was," said White Sox director of player development Dave Wilder of Broadway. "He has two-plus pitches and a fastball he locates. He has a chance to be pretty good here."
Broadway focused on that "plus pitch," his changeup, during Instructional League action. Richard Dotson, the one-time 20-game winner for the White Sox and current pitching coach for Double-A Birmingham, and Kirk Champion, the White Sox Minor League pitching coordinator, worked closely with an eager-to-learn Broadway.
According to the native of Grand Prairie, Texas, he was drafted on the basis of his hard-breaking curve -- an outpitch that he feels comfortable using in any sort of game situation. Broadway will make it to the Majors, though, through the improvement of his changeup and the command of his fastball.
His work will be on display come February in Tucson, as Broadway anxiously awaits Minor League Spring Training. The interim plan is for Broadway to continue to strengthen his arm for this next opportunity, while also building up his legs.
With White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's propensity to use Minor Leaguers during Cactus League contests, Broadway realizes there might be a chance for him to pitch against Major League opponents. He doesn't care if it's one inning during one game in the long spring schedule.
While attending Game 3 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, the former Rangers and Astros fan caught a glimpse of what his future could hold. Former Astros fan, that is, as in his allegiance belonged to the White Sox the day he was drafted.
"They were some great games, and I was hoping the Astros could get a couple of wins," said Broadway with a laugh. "But I definitely won't root against my employer."
Some day in the not too distant future, Broadway could be joining young White Sox hurlers such as Gio Gonzalez and Ray Liotta in competing for a rotation spot along side of Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy.
Until that point comes, Broadway will listen and learn to every piece of pitching information provided. His pitchability will be on display for the World Series champions, but for now, it will be as a Minor Leaguer on the rise.
"My first legit shot for the Majors probably would be 2007, and I hope I'll be ready. I expect myself to be ready," said Broadway, who will start 2006 in Birmingham. "The White Sox will bring me up when they know I'm ready.
"Right now, I'm just excited to go to Spring Training for the World [Series] champions. I can't wait to go and learn the game. You want to learn from the best, and we are the best right now."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.