The Lansing Lugnuts had an incredible bullpen in 2013, all of which was solidified with right-handed pitcher Tucker Donahue. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 4th round of the 2012 draft, out of Stetson University in Florida, Donahue admits that he was very excited for the opportunity after one year removed from turning downed an opportunity with the Texas Rangers in 2011.
“Being drafted by Toronto was very exciting. I was very thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “In 2011 I did what most people wouldn’t do and turned down the Texas Rangers offer to attend college, so I was very thankful for Toronto giving me a chance.”
The 23-year old pitcher stated that Toronto showed a lot of interest in him both after his junior and senior seasons at Stetson and that they were in constant contact with the organization throughout the process.
“Toronto showed interest after my junior year, but Texas got me. Leading up to the draft in 2012 I received calls from the organization saying if you’re still there in the 4th round we’re taking you. And they did”
Although Donahue was high on the Blue Jays draft boards, his journey to professional baseball wasn’t easy as he was injured his senior year of high school and didn’t receive the professional or college attention that a lot of top high school players receive.
Instead, Donahue had to become a ‘walk-on’ at Stetson University. An opportunity he speaks highly of from both an athletic and academic standpoint. “Stetson University was phenomenal. It was a great D1 program. Being in Florida, I loved playing in the state I grew up in. I didn’t come in the best student, but I feel I left one hell of a student and I owe that to the atmosphere of the school.”
He further added that he was very fortunate for the athletic opportunities the college provided as well. “Stetson had an open roster spot and they told me I could be a preferred walk-on and see how things go. I’m pretty sure they originally kept me on because of numbers as I had a horrid season my freshman year. But it ended up doing me some good. After that I told myself what I wanted out of baseball and I wouldn’t accept anything less. I turned it into what I wanted to be and I’m very proud of that.”
Donohue began his professional career with the Vancouver Canadians in 2012 where he posted a 3-2 record with a 5.26 ERA, 21 strikeouts, and a save in 25 2/3 innings. “Vancouver was a great place to be. It was definitely a climate change for me because I played all my baseball south of Jacksonville, Florida. But the experience was great and the coaches were phenomenal. It was a cool atmosphere and a lot of fans came out every game.
He was also a key piece of the C’s bullpen that won its second consecutive Northwest League Championship. “Winning the Northwest League championship was awesome. Anytime you play, you play to win,” he said, adding. ” They won the championship the year before so there was more pressure for us to win. I was happy with our team answering the call and winning the championship. We loved it. The organization loved it and you get extra praise at spring training for achieving it.”
Making a jump to the Lansing Lugnuts’ in 2013, Donahue posted a 3-3 record with a 6.09 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings of work in his first full season.
“Lansing was also a neat place to be. The league is great. The stadium is nice and I love playing for the Lugnuts as they get a lot of fan support at home and on the road,” he said. “I feel I made strides in Lansing. I tried a lot of new things some worked and some didn’t, but I have to keep working at it. I’m fully dedicated to everything so I feel it was a successful season.”
Donahue credits a lot of his success to his pitch repertoire, especially his blistering fastball that can often touch the high-90’s. “I use three pitches – a fastball, a slider, and a change-up – my fastball averages 93 miles per hour, but I can get up to 97 miles per hour although it normally sits between 92 to 95 mph.
“My arm strength and fastball velocity is my biggest strengths as a pitcher. My command has got a lot better. I’m totally confident in my fastball and I can throw it any location in any count. I’m trying to fine tune the secondary pitches to help put guys away with.”
Donahue especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with Lansing Lugnuts’ pitching coach Vince Horsman and his hands-on approach to coaching. “It was great working with Vince. He’s a great guy to talk to and he has a great sense of humor. Vince is very hands-on which I like because I’m a visual learner. He gives me a lot of information I can use on the mound.”
Incorporating a quality slider was a major aspect Horsman wanted to see from Donahue in 2013. “Tucker worked on his slider this year,” Horsman said. “We worked with him at getting consistent with his command. He understands the importance of the slider and that he needs to throw it more often for it to get better and it progressed nicely over the season.”
Donahue agreed. “My final outing I threw a slider that got the batter called out on strikes. It was the best slider I threw all year and it’s a nice picture to keep in my mind until spring training,” he said.
Until spring training rolls around, Donahue is focused on giving his arm some rest after a busy 2012 off-season and his first full season of professional baseball. The Blue Jays prospect states his off-season preparation will consist mostly of workout drills. “I’m focusing on preparation but I’m not going to participate in instructional league or winter ball this year because I did both last year. The organization wants me to shut my arm down for a little bit. That’s good, of course, but I like to throw – it’s my livelihood! I can’t wait to get back on the mound!”