As the players on the short season Single-A Mahoning Valley roster begin to settle in and the day-to-day routines of a baseball season begin to take hold, several new players from the recently completed MLB Draft get to experience their first home opener as a professional.
One of those players is right-handed pitcher Jordan Carter who was selected by the Indians in the 22nd round out of St. Joseph’s University (PA) and signed early last week.
"I am thrilled as it is a great opportunity to keep playing the game," Carter beamed. "It is a fun team so far meeting the guys. I am excited for it as it is an awesome stadium and I get to play in front of great crowds."
Carter, 22, had to wait until the third day of the draft to hear his name called. He actually got a phone call from the Indians shortly before his name was announced, but he was excited just the same to hear his name on the live conference call that was broadcast on MLB.com.
"I tried not to make too much of a big deal about it, but there is always that time where I am around my computer trying to listen to the picks," Carter said. "Last year, I followed the draft because getting into my junior and senior year in college I know a lot of guys who got drafted who I played with or played against. It is always cool to hear their names and for them to get the opportunity to keep playing. I got a call from the Indians and everything just kind of fell into place. It was a really special day."
As a college senior, Carter had very little leverage to negotiate a deal and he wanted to sign, so the negotiation process was rather simple and the reason why he was one of the first to sign with the Indians after the draft. After being drafted on a Saturday, he signed with the Indians and was on an airplane and in Mahoning Valley by Tuesday just three days before the start of the season.
"It was a very quick turnaround," Carter noted. "I found out that Monday morning that I was going to be coming here instead of Arizona, so I flew out Tuesday morning and started practice on Wednesday. All within four or five days everything kind of got settled."
As a college senior and a 22nd round draft pick, the odds are long for Carter to advance very far in the minors. However, there are always some players who surprise and he hopes that his experience on the mound and pitch ability will help him have success so that he can move up the minor-league ladder.
"Being a senior guy I feel like I have a lot of experience," Carter said. "One thing I am excited for is I have been through quite a bit of adversity, so I feel that gives me a heads up here because I have been through some tough times earlier in my career and I have learned how to succeed and bounce back from those times. I have learned how to deal with failure and celebrate success and I feel like I am better for it."
Over his four-year college career at St. Joseph’s, Carter made 52 appearances (47 starts) and went 14-16 with a 3.72 ERA. This season, he made 14 starts and went 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA, easily his best season, though it was his sophomore year when he went 0-6 with a 3.63 ERA in 15 starts where he felt he really came into his own and learned to deal with adversity.
"My sophomore year we really struggled offensively, so I wasn’t used to a lot of run support at all," Carter recalled. "If I gave up more than two runs it usually ended up in a loss. My record wasn’t great and my ERA wasn’t fantastic. It was about leaning to control what you can control. You can’t control errors and you can’t control the way your team hits. Sometimes it is tough to stay in it mentally when you know something goes bad it could keep spiraling. It really helped me on the mental side of the game to control what I can control and go out there and work hard and the chips will fall where they fall."
Now that Carter is in the pros, he wants to work on gaining strength and improving his repertoire. He throws a sinking fastball that sits at 88-92 MPH and has flashed 93 MPH, mixing in a slider and changeup.
"I pride myself off of having good control and working both sides of the plate with my sinker," Carter said. "I am still developing my changeup into more of an outpitch and my slider has kind of been my out pitch. I have a lot of weight I can put on, so my goal here is to put on some weight and strengthen up my lower half as I feel like I have some more velocity in me."
Carter is not a guy who is going to blow the ball by hitters or beat them on stuff alone. He is more of a thinking pitcher who pitches to contact and works both sides of the plate with his sinker to get weak groundball outs early in the count so he can pitch deep into games.
"Going out on the mound with confidence and knowing you are going to get guys out I think is the biggest thing mentally and even more important than the physical aspects sometimes," Carter noted. "It is about just pounding the zone with strikes and I think that is something I do a lot. I make hitters prove they can hit me before I start messing around with things. I am going to go after guys and try to limit my walks and see what happens."
Right now, the Indians are still working Carter’s arm back into shape as he has not thrown a lot since his college season ended. In the meantime, he is pitching out of the bullpen but the Indians hope to get him into the starting rotation at some point this season.
"I threw almost 96 innings in college, so right now they are just easing me into it," Carter said. "We are going to take it pretty slow, but I have been a starter my whole life and my goal is to get into the rotation here. But whatever way they can use me I am ready to play and help the team win."
Carter is a big Phillies fan having been born and raised in a suburb about 45 minutes from Philadelphia and he even went to school at St. Joseph’s, which is in eastern PA, close to Philly. But now that he has been drafted and signed by the Indians, his allegiance is with the Indians and he is excited to get his career started.
"I grew up a Phillies fan, but I am excited to be a part of the Indians organization," Carter smiled. "It has been a blast so far and I am really enjoying it."