10/29/08 10:00 AM ET
Slama shared bullpen success
Righty earns MiLBY for Best Class A Advanced Reliever
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
And while the overall MiLBY Award for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year went to Slama's bullpen mate and buddy, Rob Delaney, there can be no argument about Slama being the pick for Class A Advanced Reliever.
In just his second pro season, the 24-year-old right-hander from California racked up 25 saves for the Fort Myers Miracle, posting a microscopic 1.01 ERA in 51 games. After sharing closer duties with Delaney in the first half of the season, he took over when Delaney moved up to Double-A New Britain and didn't miss a beat.
Overall, Slama struck out 110 batters in 71 innings, with his 13.94 strikeouts-per-nine ranking third among all Minor League relievers. His .173 opponents' batting average was eighth among Minor League relievers.
A 2006 39th-round draft pick, he pitched at Santa Ana Community College and the University of San Diego before signing with the Minnesota Twins following the '07 college season. Slama spent most of that summer's debut at Class A Beloit, where he posted a 1.48 ERA and 10 saves while fanning 39 in 24 1/3 innings.
Slama stepped into the Beloit void opened when Delaney moved up to Fort Myers in July 2007, but the two finally caught up with each other this spring in the Miracle bullpen.
They've been reunited again in the 'pen for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, where Slama had yet to allow a run in four innings over five games.
When the 2008 season started, the two were used pretty much alternately when a save situation came up. With the Miracle's 45-24 first-half record and West Division title, there were plenty of chances for both of them.
Once Delaney was gone and the role was all Slama's, he didn't find there was much difference, other than the loss of his buddy on the bench.
"Every time I went in the first half, it was still a closing situation," he said. "So I took the same approach in the second half."
Slama is armed with a three-pitch repertoire, with his slider probably being his most dominant and his changeup being the one he's working on specifically in his fall league stint.
"My slider is a little slower than most sliders, it probably runs about 78 mph, and I use that to put a righty away," he said. "It's not as effective to lefties, which is why I'm working on the changeup here. But I feel confident as long as I execute a pitch and put it where I want it and throw it with confidence that any of my pitches could be my out pitch."
Slama said he was ecstatic to be invited to the AFL to continue his progress.
"After having a lot of success this season, I felt like I was in tune, basically, but you can always improve and I think this is the perfect platform to do that," he said. "You're facing the guys who can give you the best feedback possible, future Major Leaguers."
Slama and Delaney have come out of seemingly nowhere to emerge as two of the Twins' top hopes for the bullpen sometime in 2009.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander is an animated and easygoing California kid, though he makes a point of letting you know he's never surfed (which may change this winter since his girlfriend's dad is a surfboard shaper).
"He's a good time," Delaney said of Slama. "He's a great guy, it's fun having him around."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.