Bradenton, Fla. — Lucas Harrell knew he wasn’t in South Korea anymore. He didn’t need a translator to talk to his catcher.
Harrell is one of the more interesting reclamation projects the Tigers have signed this spring. The right-handed pitcher was a mainstay of the Astros rotation through the ugly 100-loss seasons in 2012 and 2013. Then he lost, in short order, his control and his confidence and decided to regroup last season with a stint in Korea.
“I feel a lot better,” he said, after he struck out the only batter he faced Sunday, Josh Harrison. “I feel like everything is starting to come back to where it was when I had success. Last year in Korea was good for me. It kind of gave me a chance to get away from baseball here and to get back to what I was doing that was good.
“It just allowed me to clear my head.”
The Springfield, Mo., native was 11-11 in 2012, striking out 140 with 78 walks. In 2013, though, the walks started to come in droves. He walked a league-high 88 in a 17-loss season. He was demoted to Triple A Reno in 2014 and it got worse. He had 77 walks to 67 strikeouts and posted a 1.80 WHIP.
“It was a little bit of that,” he said of losing his control. “But it was more just trusting my stuff. You struggle a little and you kind of get away from what you do and you start doubting yourself.”
He was 10-11 with the LG Twins in Korea, walking 108 in 171 innings, with 151 strikeouts.
“I feel like I got back to the way I felt when I was throwing the ball well,” he said. “I told myself I would try to sign back in the United States. I will give it all I have and if I don’t make it, I don’t make it. But at least I’ve given it a shot.”
The Tigers signed him to a minor league contract last week and brought him along Sunday as an extra arm in the bullpen. Best case scenario for him would be to win a spot in the rotation at Toledo.
As for his time in Korea, he loved it. He talked about playing in front of 25,000 fans who would scream his name throughout the game, or sing songs to the hitters when they came to bat.
“Communication with the catcher was the tough part,” he said. “Here you just walk up to your catcher and say, ‘I'm throwing a curveball down and a fastball away, don’t give me any signs with a guy on second base.’ But there, you have your translator come out, you talk to him and then he talks to the catcher.
“Makes it kind of tough."