California native Ricky Steik worked in three different leagues after being drafted by the Padres in 2004 and spent the year in his first full season league this year, a reliever for the Fort Wayne Wizards.
"If I had to pick a guy who I thought would be the closer for that Fort Wayne team, Steik was my best option," minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. His 0-6 record doesn't measure the quality of his work on a regular basis. In 60 innings of work, Steik had a 2.40 ERA with three saves, holding the opposition to a .247 average against.
He was the primary reliever when the game was tight with four of his losses coming by virtue of one run crossing the plate against him in a tie game. His other two losses came with one run leads, accounting for two of the three times he gave up more than one run in any outing.
He allowed runs in 12 of his 54 appearances, or just 22 percent of the time. He also had a stretch of 19 games without surrendering a run, a span of 23 innings, early in the year. And he followed that up with another 14 relief appearances of scoreless ball a few weeks later, this one spanning 15.2 innings.
"Steik has a better arm and a better shot," Bryk added of his chances compared to other relievers in the lower minors. "If he keeps his focus – he has a fastball, slider and we are working on his change. I had him as a prospect before this year."
Steik features three pitches, a fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball will touch the mid-nineties and is consistent on the radar gun at 91. His change is a good ten to fifteen miles per hour slower and is one of his strongest pitches. With the emphasis as an organization on a solid change, Steik is ahead of the game.
The right-hander has also fully delved into a workout program to keep his strength up through the long season and perhaps it will give him a tick or two more on his fastball.
Steik, who turns 22 in January, has shown a consistent presence from the bullpen and his first pitch strikes are leading the way to a successful career.