Josh Dew doesn't know why he was let go by the St. Louis Cardinals organization before the 2010 baseball season. An explanation would have helped, because without it there seems to be little cause for his release.
Dew, a right-handed pitcher who serves as the Wingnuts' closer, was still becoming acclimated to pitching full-time and trying to return from a fractured elbow when the Cardinals decided they no longer needed him.
His performance in the organization seemed to warrant another chance. Dew made it to Double-A before his injury.
"That's just the way affiliated ball works," Dew said. "Every single one of us (in independent baseball) has a similar kind of story, that we got released, and none of us really know why. There could have been a spot for me on the Double-A roster. The Cardinals had one of the youngest teams on every level, so I guess I was just getting too old for them."
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Dew, 26, cruised through two levels of Class-A ball after being drafted by the Cardinals in the 14th round of the 2007 draft.
His quick adjustment to pitching as a professional could have been seen as surprising because his visibility was relatively low when he pitched in college at Troy University in Alabama.
Dew wasn't just a pitcher at Troy, he played first base and was one of the team's best hitters. But when he had an ERA under 2.00 in his first 45 games in the Cardinals organization, it was apparent he took the right path.
"I pretty much taught myself how to pitch," Dew said. "I pitched a little bit in high school — not much — then I didn't pitch again until my junior year of college. I kind of was just a thrower, I wasn't really a pitcher. When I got into pro ball it was a challenge. I had to learn how to pitch."
The Cardinals kept Dew from using his go-to pitch, the slider, and taught him the two-seam sinking fastball. The pitch is designed to get batters to hit groundballs, but Dew struck out more than a batter per inning in his two-year affiliated career.
Dew's struggles were with his control, as he walked more than four batters per nine innings with Double-A Springfield (Mo.), but he struck out 54 in 50 innings. Harnessing his raw skills could have helped Dew continue to advance, but he got hurt and didn't pitch at all in 2009, and he was released the following year.
"I was ready to go," Dew said. "I was as healthy as I could be and I had every pitch working. I think they had their mind made up before I got healthy."
Since no reason for his release was given, there is room only for speculation. Maybe Dew's slider, now an out pitch, wasn't up to big-league standards. Maybe the idea of a once-injured 24-year-old repeating Double-A didn't excite the Cardinals.
Whatever it was, Dew is looking for an opportunity to return to affiliated baseball and has two things working for him.
The first is that he's a closer, and when affiliated teams are looking for someone to slot into the bullpen in any role, closers get the first opportunity because they're the ace of the relief staff.
Time could also be on Dew's side. With the draft just completed, organizations are looking for players to fill rosters as short-season leagues begin and players shuffle from level to level. Dew figures that if he isn't in affiliated ball by the end of the month, he's probably with the Wingnuts to stay.
Dew has seven saves, a 1.42 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings through Wednesday.