CAll of Duty

First he served his coun­try, now West Point grad Row­ley takes mound for Jays

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE BUFFERY sbuf­fery@post­media.com

Af­ter spend­ing time in Bul­garia as part of a NATO joint ef­fort to com­bat Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in Ukraine, righthanded Blue Jays pitcher Chris Row­ley isn’t at all in­tim­i­dated about mak­ing his Ma­jor League start on Satur­day against the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates.

“They’re prob­a­bly dif­fer­ent,” Row­ley said on Fri­day when asked to com­pare the stress of be­ing on ac­tive duty with the U.S. Army and mak­ing your MLB de­but.

“Maybe com­pa­ra­ble in terms of stress level, but it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent type of stress.”

The Blue Jays called up the 26-year-old from triple-A Buf­falo to fill a hole in their ro­ta­tion left by the in­juries to Aaron Sanchez (right mid­dle fin­ger) and Ce­sar Valdez (shoul­der im­pinge­ment). Fran­cisco Liri­ano was traded to Hous­ton and Joe Bi­agini is in Buf­falo be­ing stretched out.

Row­ley split the 2017 sea­son be­tween dou­ble-A and triple-A. He has a com­bined 6-6 record in 27 ap­pear­ances with a 2.29 ERA and 90 strike­outs in 106.1 in­nings.

The per­son­able pitcher is cer­tainly one of the most in­ter­est­ing prospects to come down the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pipe­line in some time.

Row­ley is a grad­u­ate of the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy (West Point) and, in fact, said he spoke with his sports in­for­ma­tion di­rec­tor at West Point the other day and was told that he will be the first West Point grad ever to play in the Ma­jor Leagues.

The head­line in the West Point web­site pro­claims: “Row­ley Gets The Call.” West Point has pro­duced two U.S. pres­i­dents, nu­mer­ous famous gen­er­als and 76 Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents, but no Ma­jor Lea­guers. Un­til now.

“I don’t think I re­ally un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of it, I’m not sure I ever will, but it’s some­thing I’m try­ing to di­gest a lit­tle bit,” Row­ley said of his im­mi­nent de­but. “It’s some­thing I’ve tried to ap­pre­ci­ate, but at the same time I have a job to do.”

Row­ley was passed over in the 2013 draft, de­spite four solid years play­ing at West Point. He even­tu­ally signed with the Blue Pitcher Chris Row­ley will be­come the firstever West Point grad in the Ma­jors when he starts to­day against the Pi­rates. Jays as a free agent.

He didn’t play in 2014 or 2015 be­cause of his com­mit­ments with the U.S. army. Af­ter nearly two years on ac­tive duty, he was able to ob­tain his re­lease from the army.

Row­ley be­gan 2017 with the New Hamp­shire Fisher Cats and he’s been a steady pres­ence out of the bullpen and a spot starter when needed.

“I like to mix (things up),” he said. “I’m not some­body that’s re­ally go­ing to blow peo­ple away. I don’t throw very hard. I’ve de­signed my game af­ter (for­mer Braves great) Greg Mad­dux, who I think is one of the great­est pitch­ers of all time. I’ve from Ge­or­gia, I grew up watch­ing him through­out my child­hood.”

Row­ley laughed when asked, as a U.S. army of­fi­cer still on in­di­vid­ual ready re­serve, if he finds it ironic that he is mak­ing his MLB de­but in Canada with a Cana­dian team.

“Yes, def­i­nitely,” he said. “It’s a ques­tion I’ve been asked many times and there’s a huge sense of na­tion­al­ism that goes into both pro­fes­sions I’ve been in — the United States army and now play­ing for the only Ma­jor League base­ball team that plays in Canada.”

Row­ley said he knew noth­ing about Toronto be­fore get­ting the call on Thurs­day.

“I’ve been in Toronto for three hours. (But) it’s a beau­ti­ful city. Very, very clean. I was re­ally im­pressed,” he said.

The Jays are hop­ing that they’re im­pressed af­ter his start on Satur­day.

ED­DIE MICHELS/SPE­CIAL TO THE SUN

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