By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – As a high school player, Altoona Curve pitcher Zack Dodson was a good hitter. No, make that outstanding.
In his senior season at Medina Valley (Texas) High, Dodson batted .465 with 11 home runs.
“I could hit,” Dodson was saying recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “Actually, I have more records at Medina Valley as a hitter than as a pitcher.
“Homers in one year, triples in one year …. They’re mine. I also had the doubles record, too, but it’s been broken .”
Dodson committed to Baylor but signed with the Pirates after being selected in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB draft.
“I had an athletic scholarship but ended up signing,” he said. “It was all about the money. I didn’t care about the round.”
Even though he was a big hitter as an outfielder, Dodson was drafted as a pitcher.
“I was touching 94 (mph) pretty regularly,” he noted, “and I knew my potential was in pitching.”
Dodson, a 6-foot,200-pound southpaw, signed late in 2009 and went to the Gulf Coast League “for one inning in the last game, but it was worth it.”
He went to short-season State College in 2010 where he went 2-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 13 starts. He split 2011 between GCL, State College and low-A West Virginia mainly because he was slowed by a broken hand. He went 6-6 at the three stops.
He returned to West Virginia in 2012 and went 6-6 with a 4.86 ERA in 21 starts.
”I was 6-6 overall, and it was bad,” he recalled. “I was lucky to lose only six games.”
Despite what he considered “a bad season” at West Virginia in 2012, Dodson was promoted to Bradenton (high A) in 2013, compiling a 6-8 mark and 4.40 ERA in 20 starts before being advanced to Altoona for one start in August.
Dodson spent all of 2014 with the Curve, posting a 4-8 mark and 4.62 ERA in 23 starts. He returned to the Curve again this season and, as of Aug. 9, had a 5-10 record and 4.10 ERA in 22 starts and 132 innings.
“I’m still a starter,” hes said. “They haven’t thrown me to the bullpen yet. I was supposed to relieve in Spring Training but I threw well. They kept me as a starter and I got off to a good start here.”
Dodson said his biggest challenge is to be consistent.
“That’s why I’m still here,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I’ve got to execute pitches and not get too worked up. It comes down to being consistent enough so you can go somewhere else.
“You can’t make four good starts and then three bad ones. That’s not what they want to see and that’s the challenge for me.”
With two years in Double-A, Dodson thinks he can pitch well enough to move up. Whether it’s with the Pirates or not, is another question.
“The Pirates are good and have a lot of depth,” he said. “When we take the mound, we’re pitching for 29 other teams, too, so maybe somebody else will give me a chance, if the Pirates can’t.
“I feel like I’m pretty close,” the 25-year-old lefty said. “The next three years are going to be exciting. Hopefully, I’ll be in the bigs by then.”