Ruffin keeps success under his hat
Son of former big leaguer, hurler eyes fast track
CHICAGO -- If Chance Ruffin gets to the Majors, prepare for some K's scribbled underneath his Old English 'D'.
He has a big league pedigree, and at least one quirk to go with it.
"It is almost like a good-luck charm," Ruffin said Tuesday. "I started off in college and I had a few bad outings and I didn't do it, and I thought I was maybe trying to be somebody different. And I said I can't go out there and pitch scared or be somebody different."
The Tigers don't want him trying to be somebody different as a pro. The pitcher he is now, with a little seasoning, has a chance to reach the Majors in a hurry.
Thirteen years after Bruce Ruffin recorded the last of his 63 Major League saves, the Tigers used their second selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft on his son, the closer for the University of Texas. If he signs, he'll join a Tigers farm system already stocked with quality young relievers, from Ryan Perry to Joel Zumaya to Robbie Weinhardt and others. But the Tigers believe Ruffin's a little special.
"The old saying, you know, is you can never have enough pitching," Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd said. "I think everyone has come to the conclusion in the amateur draft that bullpen arms [are in demand]. He's very advanced. He has three power pitches, with the ability to locate all his pitches."
He has the stats to back it up. He just keeps it under his hat -- every save, every win, every strikeout.
The tradition, he said, began in high school, when it wasn't easy for him to track statistics.
"I had to keep track of them some way," he said. "It's one of those goofy things like that."
Now, it has become more of a routine, enough that he has different stats that he tracks on different hats.
On his white Texas cap, Ruffin tracks his strikeouts. The light color gives him plenty of room for it. With 96 strikeouts over 61 2/3 innings, and five strikeouts in his last outing alone, he needs all the space he can find.
On his other two hats, he tracks saves, wins, innings pitched and appearance. He owns a 6-1 record with 14 saves in 36 games, so that garners some space, too.
One thing he hasn't needed to track much is scoring damage. He has given up just five earned runs on 39 hits over 61 2/3 innings.
With numbers like those, the comparisons aren't just between Ruffin and his father, who closed with the Rockies in their early years of existence in the 1990s. He's also being compared with Huston Street, who went from Longhorns star closer in 2004 to closing in Oakland a year later.
Those are lofty expectations with which to compare. Chance Ruffin, however, thrives on it, just as he has learned to thrive on closing.
"In terms of success in pitching, it's an absolute honor," Ruffin said. "He's a great pitcher. He's a humble guy. He gave me a lot of advice coming into the season. Also, I know my pitching mechanics have had me tied to him, kind of a slinger type of guy. All around, it's pretty cool, especially considering I grew up in Austin, Texas, and he's one of my favorite pitchers to watch."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.