Getting into the major leagues isn’t easy.
That point has been driven home to Steve Ascher, who said he has learned a lesson: “not to take anything for granted.”
Ascher, a 23-year-old lefthanded pitcher from Cutchogue, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 17th round out of SUNY/Oneonta in 2014. His numbers were good and he climbed up Tampa’s minor-league ladder, reaching as high as Double-A with the Montgomery Biscuits in Alabama last year.
Then Ascher’s baseball world was shaken by an unforeseen move. The Rays released him at the end of March.
“It was a huge surprise,” the former Mattituck High School star said. “When I got released, everyone was starting to make cuts and everyone was starting to release people.”
Now Ascher has landed with another MLB organization, signing with the Colorado Rockies last week. The Rockies haven’t assigned him to a team yet.
“It was a rough couple of weeks, so I’m excited to be back with an affiliate,” Ascher told The Suffolk Times Tuesday night in a phone interview from the Rockies’ spring-training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ascher said he thought he was going to play for an independent minor league team, the Long Island Ducks, before receiving a call from the Rockies last week in which he was told they wanted to sign him.
Ascher said he arrived in Arizona last Thursday night, made introductions, underwent a physical and signed paperwork on Friday and threw a bullpen session on Saturday before throwing another one on Tuesday.
“Not being on a mound for that long is difficult and awkward but I did well,” he said, “and I threw again today and did well.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Ascher said he threw 30 pitches in the first session and about 20 in the second. He expects to play in a couple of extended spring-training games before receiving an assignment. Among his assignment possibilities are the Lancaster JetHawks, a high Class-A team in California, and the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats in Connecticut.
“They told me they were looking at either high-A or Double-A,” Ascher said. “Obviously, Double-A would be great, but I’m going to keep doing what I do and whatever.”
Last year Ascher had a combined 6-2 record and 3.93 ERA for Montgomery and the Charlotte Stone Crabs, a high Class-A team in Florida. He was moved around between starter and reliever. In a game for Montgomery last July he worked three innings and shared a no-hitter with three other pitchers.
In three seasons at various levels with the Rays organization, Ascher compiled a 15-6 record with a 3.10 ERA.
Ascher said it was hot in Arizona (in the 85-90-degree range), “but it’s really dry.” That dry weather affects the feel a pitcher has for the ball.
“The ball actually does a feel a lot different,” he said. “It more feels like a cue ball than a baseball in your hand. You have to get used to it.”
Following his whirlwind start to spring, Ascher sounded eager to settle in with a team.
“I feel confident and the body feels good,” he said. “I’m just excited to get back to games.”
Photo caption: Steve Ascher pitching for the (W.Va.) Rays in a rookie league in the summer of 2014. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Steve Ascher)