Instead of waiting until he turned pro to make a position change, right-hander Brendan McCurry – Oakland’s 22nd-round draft choice last month out of Oklahoma State – switched from second base to pitcher as a college junior in 2013 and instantly became one of the top closers in the NCAA.
This year, the college senior signed with the A’s shortly after the draft and was given an aggressive assignment at full-season Beloit after making just one appearance with the rookie league squad in Arizona.
“I’m just going out there trying to get outs, any way I can get them and putting as many zeroes on the board as I can,” said McCurry, who has appeared in a pair of games since joining the Snappers and allowed one earned run on three hits in 3.1 innings, striking out four and walking none.
"They really didn’t tell me anything [before sending me to Beloit]," McCurry said. "I had a really good senior year at Oklahoma State, so they may have gone off those stats. All I know is they called me into the office and said I was going to [the Snappers]."
Although he has only been with the club for a short time, the under-sized 5-foot-10 reliever has made quite an impression on Beloit pitching coach Craig Lefferts.
"I like what I see," Lefferts said. "He’s a right-handed reliever, pitched in relief in college and he’s going to be in our bullpen here. He’s got a couple different arm angles, a number of different pitches and kind of throws the kitchen sink at you. He’s a competitor and I like what I’ve seen so far.
"He just got drafted, was able to come up to Beloit in his first year and get an opportunity. As we do with all of our pitchers that we draft, that first year we let them go out and pitch and see what we’ve got. I don’t want to be too quick to evaluate, so we’ll let him see what he can do."
“I’m just going out there trying to get outs, any way I can get them and putting as many zeroes on the board as I can." - Brendan McCurry.
Lefferts hopes that his new reliever is the shot in the arm a struggling bullpen needs. McCurry could not have fared much better this spring for the Cowboys, pitching to a 0.39 ERA in 46 innings, recording 19 saves and winning all five of his decisions.
He put an exclamation point on his college career by pitching two scoreless innings against current teammate Matt Chapman and Cal State-Fullerton in the NCAA Regionals, leading OSU to its first Super Regional appearance in seven years. McCurry faced Chapman once during the game and induced a pop out.
One week after their matchup in Stillwater, McCurry found out he would be joining Chapman and the A’s in a most unorthodox fashion.
"I didn’t even know I had gotten picked," McCurry said. "I was sitting on my couch watching the Super Regional games, because we were playing later that day against UC-Irvine. My phone went off and I think OaklandClubhouse followed me on Twitter. I picked up my phone and went to the draft tracker and saw I got drafted by Oakland. The scout who drafted me didn’t want to bother me, since we were getting ready to play a postseason game."
McCurry will never be confused with a lights-out reliever that comes out of the bullpen throwing heat, but what he will do is keep hitters off-balance with a variety of pitches.
"I throw from two different arm slots, from straight over the top and from a sidearm slot," McCurry said. "From up top, I’ve got a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball and a split-finger fastball. Then from sidearm, I’ve got a two-seam fastball, changeup and slider.
"For me, it’s all about the hitter. I can’t really shake pitches when the catcher calls it, because if he shakes the pitch I want to throw, it might be the eighth pitch. I usually just throw what they call. At Oklahoma State, they called all my pitches and I didn’t really have a choice but to throw them. Here the catchers call the game, so I’ll throw what he wants to throw."
Certainly not short on pitch offerings, McCurry said the next step will be to prove he can locate all of those for strikes.
"I just worked on keeping the ball down in the two side sessions I had [in Arizona]," McCurry said. "When you elevate pitches is when you get hurt. All the hitters can really hit up here and there are no weak spots in the lineup. I’ve learned that pretty quickly. One through nine, they can all hit. Most college teams have about two or three guys that are decent, but most aren’t going to hurt you really bad. But one through nine here can hurt you."