Those who wonder how far the Cal Poly baseball team could have gone this past year had Mason Radeke returned for his senior season rather than sign as a late-round draft pick aren’t alone.
The right-handed pitcher from Santa Barbara has wondered a time or two.
“I would have liked to been on that team,” said Radeke, now pitching for the Class A Lake County Captains in the Cleveland Indians farm system. “They seemed to be doing pretty well, and I feel like if I was there to provide a little bit more pitching support, we might have had a chance to get back to regionals.”
The Mustangs made their first and only Division I regional when a freshman Radeke led the staff to an at-large berth in 2009. As it was this season, Cal Poly was one of the last dozen teams left out of the NCAA postseason, one win short of earning the automatic berth in the Big West Conference.
But a 35th-round pick by the Indians last June, Radeke didn’t consider coming back to San Luis Obispo.
“I felt like it was my time to go,” he said, “and I was set on starting my professional career before the draft started.”
Now a year into that professional career, Radeke has opened some eyes. On the week of his 22nd birthday, he was named the Indians’ Minor League Player of the Week for two sparkling long relief outings.
Totaling 8 1⁄3 scoreless innings, Radeke was 1-0 with 13 strikeouts, one walk and four hits. He struck out eight in four scoreless innings in his June 4 victory over the Fort Worth TinCaps. He came back five days later to strike out five and allow only two baserunners over 41⁄3 innings against the Lansing Lugnuts.
Over 17 appearances between Lake County and the Akron Aeros (AA), Radeke is 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 43 innings. In separate short promotions with the Aeros, he is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA, and batters hit only .208 against him.
It’s been in a new role, too. After starting nine games in the New York Penn League last season, Radeke has only one start this season.
“I don’t really know what the plan is for me in the organization sense,” he said, “but it looks like I’ve been going a lot of long relief. I made a spot start in Akron. That was a lot of fun.”
Taking him in a later round, the Indians don’t have as much invested in Radeke as they do current Lake County and former Cal Poly teammate Jeff Johnson, a fireballing closer with a nasty splitter taken in the 10th round.
But with improved strength training in the offseason, Radeke has increased his fastball velocity to the 89-93 mph range. He was throwing just 86-90 as a starter at Cal Poly, where he had an 8-3 record and 3.07 ERA as a junior.
With that arsenal, Radeke tied a program record with 14 strikeouts against Valparaiso and had a 13-strikeout game against UC Santa Barbara, finishing with 95 strikeouts in 95 innings.
Now that he’s throwing harder, his pinpoint control should help Radeke climb the ranks, as long as he continues opening eyes.
“It’s definitely a tougher road for me being a lower pick and having less invested in me,” Radeke said, “but I’ve been in that situation my whole baseball career. I’ve started low on the totem pole and worked my way up.”