ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The life of a minor league player is chaotic and can be completely surprising. Former Lobo pitcher Cole White knows all about that.
While pitching for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the Double-A Texas League earlier this season, White was unexpectedly released on May 10 despite having a 2.08 ERA in seven games out of the bullpen.
“I actually thought it was the best start to a season that I had had while playing pro ball,” White said.
Drafted in the sixth round out of UNM in 2009, White didn’t have to wait long for another offer, though. Jeff Bridich, the senior director for player development of the Colorado Rockies, gave him a call the next day. There was only one problem: White was already asleep.
“I came home for about a day and the next night I missed the call,” he said. “So in the morning I called (Bridich) back and he asked me what happened (with the Royals). I said I didn’t know because they didn’t really give me an explanation. He asked if I still wanted to play pro ball. I said I did. So he told me to get up to Tulsa.”
White reported to the Drillers, who are coincidentally enough in the same division as the Naturals.
White played for the Lobos during the 2009 season and had a fantastic year. He appeared in 27 games, tied for seventh most in a single season at UNM, and posted a 3-2 record with a 2.33 ERA and four saves. He struck out 45 in 38.2 innings and held opponents to a .144 batting average against.
While with the Royals he didn’t pitch in as many late-game situations, as he only recorded seven saves in four seasons with the organization, but once he got to Tulsa he was immediately placed back in that position.
“I got back into the role I had at New Mexico, which I kind of fell out of with the Royals,” he said. “I got up there, threw a bullpen and then the next night I was on the mound in the eighth inning in a 2-1 game.”
White received some more good luck because about two weeks after his arrival in Tulsa, the Drillers’ closer was promoted.
“There was no question I was the guy then,” he said. “I just like to be in there late in the game. That’s the type of pitcher I am. I’m going to walk some people probably, but that’s the kind of stuff I have: swing-and-miss kind of stuff. I feel like that’s exactly what the Rockies and Tulsa needed. I’m not a finesse pitcher. To have that confidence in me, especially right after I was released, was a huge boost to my own confidence.”
He took full advantage of the opportunity and rewarded the Rockies’ faith in him by finishing the season with a Texas League-leading 19 saves and striking out 42 batters in 47.2 innings. It was the fourth most saves in all of Double-A, and White managed it in only about half a season.
“I would definitely say it worked out for the best for both parties, for me and the Royals too,” he said. “They must have had their reasons (for releasing me). As soon as the Rockies called and I went to Tulsa it was a totally different situation. They told me, ‘It doesn’t matter what happened (with the Royals). It’s good for us and we’re glad.’”
It worked out so well that White received a new two-year contract after only a short period in Tulsa, which is a rarity among minor league-free agents.
“My original deal was basically just to the end of the year, but after a month or so they offered me a new contract,” he explained. “We agreed on a two-year deal after this season. They’re usually just for one season, so that just showed me again that they’re serious in me because I hadn’t pitched that much (when I signed it). They realized that at the end of the season there would be other teams interested and I might have signed with somebody else. But I liked that they wanted me enough to sign me, especially with two months left in the season after only a few outings. That was another confidence boost right there.”