In Focus: Transformation
Former Starter Joey Bourgeois is Now a Bullpen Ace
In baseball, the life of a pitcher can be filled with both ups and downs. Senior right-hander Joey Bourgeois’ collegiate baseball career has been exactly that.
Bourgeois first took the mound as a starting pitcher at LSU-Eunice in 2009. An impressive first season at LSU-Eunice grabbed the attention of the Atlanta Braves, who drafted Bourgeois in the 39th round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. However, Bourgeois was not focused on leaving college baseball.
“At that time, pro ball was not even on my mind,” Bourgeois said. “I just wanted to get to LSU. Growing up in Louisiana, it was a dream come true to come to LSU.”
After finishing his 2009 season 12-2 with a team leading 98 strikeouts at LSU-Eunice, the Paulina, La. native was offered a scholarship at LSU in 2010.
As a starter at LSU, Bourgeois was impressive at times but finished 2010 with a 6.68 earned run average. After the final game of the 2010 season, things began to turn for the worst.
“When I woke up the morning after the (2010 NCAA) Regional my arm was locked,” Bourgeois said. “I knew something wasn’t right. The doctors said it was clear as day that my ligament was torn.”
Bourgeois would be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.
“I was heartbroken,” Bourgeois said. “That’s the worst news a pitcher can get. I just told myself I have to give therapy 100 percent and come back as best as I could.”
Bourgeois did exactly that in the 2012 season. However, he returned to the Tigers’ rotation at a different position.
“After surgery Coach Mainieri thought it was best for the team to move me into the bullpen,” Bourgeois said. “I agreed with him 100 percent.”
Bourgeois was solid in his first season in the bullpen, finishing the year with a 2.38 ERA in 34 innings of work.
“The transformation from a starter to a bullpen guy isn’t that easy,” Bourgeois said. “Coming out of the bullpen, you don’t know if you are going to pitch for one out, two outs, an inning or maybe three or four innings. You just take it pitch by pitch and get the job done.”
His success as a relief pitcher has continued into his senior season. Bourgeois, who takes the mound at Alex Box Stadium to the theme song from Mortal Kombat, has frozen opposing hitters with his heated fastball. Thus far in 2013, Bourgeois has recorded 18 strikeouts while only allowing two free passes (one intentional walk).
“I worked a lot with command after last season,” Bourgeois said. “It is all about getting that first-pitch strike. When you get a first-pitch strike, it opens up the options for what kind of pitches you can throw.”
Bourgeois admits he is excited about the Tigers’ play so far in 2013. However he knows there is more work to be done.
“We have started out hot,” Bourgeois said, “but we have to turn the page and get ready for what is still to come.”