As the Lake Elsinore Storm’s 2019 season has progressed, so has Elliot Ashbeck.
Now more than three years removed from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him amid his 2016 season with the Storm, the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher has seen his outings become more and more dominant this year, and perhaps more importantly, stretch deeper into games.
Over his last four starts, Ashbeck has pitched 25.1 innings, posting a 2.84 ERA with 23 strikeouts along the way. His most recent start this past Friday evening saw the righty toss eight shutout innings and surrender only three hits — by far his most dominant offering of the season. This return to longevity on the mound is something that Ashbeck has taken pride in. “It feels good,” Ashbeck said. “I think it proves that I’m versatile, I can handle a multitude of roles — which hopefully adds a bit of value to me, whether it be with us or with a different club if that time comes.”
With more than three years now separating him from his elbow injury and consequential surgery, the process for Ashbeck at this point is less about the health of his arm, and more about getting back into the routine of being a starter again, both physically and mentally. That’s not to say that that process mentioned above has gone entirely smoothly. Ashbeck spoke about the challenges he faced in his efforts to rejoin the rotation.
“I think it took me a little while, a few starts to build that endurance,” Ashbeck said. “It had been a while since I started. I was kind of hitting a wall around 75, 80 pitches, five innings, whatever, where I’d kinda run out of steam. And I think a couple starts ago I threw five shoutout and things kind of imploded on me in the sixth.”
Friday night’s effort, which resulted in a 4-0 victory and a win for both Ashbeck and the Storm, did not implode at any point for Ashbeck and may have represented the culmination of a nearly a season’s worth of work by him to try to pitch deeper into games.
“I think I maintained strength throughout (yesterday’s) outing the best I have since I transitioned to starting here,” Ashbeck said. “The elbow feels great; it’s in the rear-view mirror, it’s not in my mind really at all. It’s just the diligence and the little things that we do in the five days in-between starts, whether it be your bullpen sessions or your lifts, just the little maintenance stuff to be feeling good and ready to go for that sixth day and get your body and mind in the right spot to give it everything you have that day.”
The 2019 campaign has marked a step forward not only for Ashbeck but for the Storm as a whole. After finishing 68-72 in 2018, Lake Elsinore has already notched 65 victories so far this season, with 14 games still to play. Finishing strong is something that both Ashbeck — who appeared in 35 games for the Storm last season— and his teammates will focus on as the year winds to a close.
“Obviously it was a young squad of guys (last season),” Ashbeck said. “You can definitely see the growth in a lot of guys; defensively I feel like we’ve really taken the next step of late. We’ve got some really, really talented guys who can make some highlight-reel plays. At the A-Ball level, winning isn’t the top priority, but it makes it a lot more fun on the day-to-day if you can win games. Whatever level you’re at, postseason baseball is fun.”
In describing his own goals as he wraps up his fourth season in professional baseball, Ashbeck is quick to maintain a sense of perspective.
“I’m just trying to keep getting guys out,” Ashbeck said. “This season hasn’t gone exactly like I envisioned, but you know, I’m always thankful to have a uniform to put on and feel like I’m getting better and executing pitches.”