NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University baseball team has made its presence felt in the professional ranks, thanks to several former Bulldogs who are making great impressions as pro players.
Craig Breslow '02 has proven to be a solid relief pitcher at the major league level, first with the Oakland Athletics and most recently with the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Ryan Lavarnway '09 saw some time last season with the Boston Red Sox and has shined as the starting catcher for Boston's Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Aside from Breslow and Lavarnway, the most recent Bulldogs to make the jump to the pros are also playing exceptionally well. Brook Hart '11, Pat Ludwig '12, Charlie Neil '12 and Nolan Becker '12 are all showing early signs of success at the pro level.
With the 2012 season just past the midway point, here is an update on all six former Bulldogs:
Craig Breslow (Relief Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks): Breslow spent the previous two seasons with the Oakland A's before he was acquired by the Diamondbacks in a trade in December. He has made the most of his time in Arizona. This season, Breslow has a 2-0 record with a 2.75 ERA in 39.1 innings over 37 appearances. He has recorded four holds and a total of 36 strikeouts with just 11 walks and a strong 1.19 WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched). Breslow has limited opposing batters to a .236 batting average.
Breslow got off to a great start to the 2012 season, with a 1-0 mark and a 2.38 ERA in 10 games in the first month of the season and an even-better 1.93 ERA in 13 appearances in May. After struggling slightly in June, grabbing a 1-0 record despite a 5.59 ERA in nine appearances, Breslow has been stellar in July, allowing no runs and just two hits in five appearances so far this month. In his last 12 appearances, Breslow has recorded 16 strikeouts, including 13 strikeouts over 9.0 innings in his last eight outings.
Ryan Lavarnway (Catcher, Pawtucket Red Sox - Boston Red Sox AAA Affliliate): Lavarnway is on the 40-man roster for the Boston Red Sox, but he has spent all season with Triple-A Pawtucket, where he has been stellar behind the plate. He was voted to start for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Lavarnway has appeared in 75 of Pawtucket's 101 games entering play Saturday. He currently holds a .297 batting average, a .386 on-base percentage, and a .448 slugging percentage. He has recorded 85 hits in 286 at-bats, with eight home runs, 19 doubles, 40 RBIs and 50 runs scored.
There is talk that Lavarnway is nearing a call-up by the Red Sox to serve as the backup to starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If he is called up, he would be a welcome addition to a Boston lineup that could use his power from the right side of the plate.
Brook Hart (Pitcher, Tri-City Dust Devils - Colorado Rockies' Northwest League Affiliate): Selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 23rd round of the 2011 draft, Hart has continued to impress in his second season in the Rockies organization. Hart did not allow a run in his first seven appearances this season, but that streak was snapped when he allowed a pair of runs in his appearance on July 5 against Boise, a game in which he was credited with the loss. He currently holds a 3-1 record this season with three saves and a 1.80 ERA. He has worked 15.0 innings in 11 relief appearances. He has allowed just 15 hits and three runs (all earned). He has recorded 13 strikeouts and just one walk.
So far in his professional career, Hart is 7-2 overall in two seasons with a 3.29 ERA, four saves and 42 strikeouts after going 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA last season with the Casper Ghosts, the Rockies' Rookie League affiliate.
Pat Ludwig (Pitcher, State College Spikes - Pittsburgh Pirates' New York-Penn League Affiliate): Ludwig, who was primarily a starting pitcher during his Yale career, is currently working out of the bullpen for the Spikes after being selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 10th round of the 2012 draft. So far, Ludwig's professional career has been impressive. He holds a 2-0 record with one save and a 1.69 ERA. However, that only tells part of the story. Ludwig has made seven appearances out of the bullpen, working two or more innings in three of those seven outings. Each one of those three extra-work outings has come in his four outings.
In his seven appearances, he did not allow a run in six of those games. He has worked 10.2 innings and has struck out nine batters so far this season. He also has not allowed a walk yet this season and has limited opposing batters to a .205 batting average.
Charlie Neil (Catcher, Connecticut Tigers - Detroit Tigers' New York-Penn League Affiliate): Neil, an outfielder throughout his four years with the Bulldogs, has moved into a backup role behind the plate for the Connecticut Tigers, Detroit's New York-Penn League affiliate that plays in Norwich, Conn. Neil, who was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 37th round of the 2012 draft, recently tallied his first professional RBI, belting a walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning to give the Tigers a 5-4 win over the Auburn Doubledays last weekend. He went 3-for-4 in the game on July 15, his best offensive showing of the season.
Neil has appeared in nine games for the Tigers, tallying six hits in 20 at-bats for a .300 batting average. He also has five walks that lift his on-base percentage to .440, and he has scored four runs.
Nolan Becker (Pitcher, Billings Mustangs - Cincinnati Reds' Pioneer League Affiliate): Becker, who was one of the anchors of the Yale starting rotation in 2012, moved into the bullpen for the Mustangs for his first professional season after his selection by the Cincinnati Reds in the 11th round of the 2012 draft. So far in 2012, Becker has made six relief appearances for the Mustangs and holds a 2.35 ERA. He has worked 7.2 innings of relief and has allowed 11 hits and eight runs, but only two of those runs were earned. He has recorded 10 strikeouts and nine walks. Six of those runs allowed came in Becker's last appearance, an outing in which he allowed four hits and a walk in just a third of an inning, but all six of the runs allowed were unearned.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity