Hip injury ends Letson's season
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Former Hartselle hurler Wes Letson is back at Birmingham Southern University these days taking classes and trying to get some rest.
Rest from the rigors of three months spent with the Braves organization in the minor leagues-three months Letson describes as draining both physically and mentally.
"Pro ball is really a grind," Letson said. "It's a lot more demanding than college. I had five days to get ready to pitch in college, but in the minors you have to be ready every day. In college you had to only throw on the weekends. In pro ball you have to be ready to throw three, four or five days in a row. It's a big adjustment for your mind and body."
The Braves decided the time had come for Letson to rest after completing both a full college season and a 90-day stay in the minor leagues.
"After I pulled my groin and hip flexor, the Braves sent me home to get some rest," Letson said. "They told me I had thrown too many innings this year. They said with a whole college season and then my time in the minors, it was just too much and I need to rest."
Letson's body agreed with the organization's assessment.
"My arm was really tired," Letson said. "I could see that my pitches had lost some of their zip."
After finishing a five-month college season, Letson was drafted by the Braves and reported five days later to Orlando for instruction. From there, he was sent to Danville, Va. and the Braves' rookie league team. Just two weeks after arriving, Letson was promoted to Class A, Rome, Ga.
"They had a player retire at Rome and they needed a pitcher," Letson said. "That's how I got there."
In the time he spent in the minor leagues, Letson appeared in 20 games over the course of 12 weeks.
He threw 19 innings walking eight batters and striking out 12 as he complied a 2-0 record with a 3.24 earned run average. Letson also recorded one save as a setup man for the team's closer.
Letson's only disappointment during his first year of pro ball was the switch from a starter's role to the bullpen.
"The hardest part of the year was going from being a starter in college to throwing relief," Letson said. "I hope I get back to being a starting pitcher again, but I'm not sure what the Braves planned for me, whether I'll be a starter again or not.
"I'll have to wait to spring training and found out their plans for me."
Letson learned many differences exist between college ball and the professional game.
"The strike zone is a lot smaller than in college," Letson said. "It's harder to get guys out.
"In pro ball there aren't as many free swingers as you see in college. You really have to be able to locate your pitches to get the outs."
Another difference from the college ranks and the low minors included the travel.
"We took eight and nine hour bus rides," Letson said. "You have to find ways to pass the time.
"A lot of the guys play cards, take naps or listen to music. It can get boring."
Letson's plans for the rest of this year include resting his arm until December when he will resume throwing.
He also plans to start a weight lifting program targeting his upper body in order to keep his arm strong an entire pro season.
Regardless of what future success may come his way in baseball, Letson said one moment this season stands out from all the others.
"I remember the first day I got my uniform," Letson said. "I looked at the Braves logo on the jersey as I was about to put it on.
"It was very special, the first time I put on a professional uniform. I just never thought I would do that."