PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Terry Doyle is so close to his dream of not only pitching in the major leagues but pitching for his life-long favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, that he can feel it.
The Salem High graduate also feels at home pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, which he should. His family moved to Rhode Island after he graduated Salem High and left for Boston College.
Doyle, who signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, had approximately 30 family members and friends in the stands at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium when he made his first home start last Saturday.
His supporters included his host family from when he pitched in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, two aunts from Rhode Island, three sets of cousins with their children and his grandmother from Narragansett.
“My grandmother, it doesn’t matter if I give up one run or 20 runs, she’s going to say, ‘Oh, Terry, you were great,’” Doyle said. “She’s always there boosting the ego.”
The 27-year-old right-hander is off to a scintillating start with the PawSox.
The two-time Eagle-Tribune MVP hurled 6.1 scoreless innings and allowed one hit, walked five and struck out five in his season debut April 7. In his McCoy debut last Saturday, he pitched 5.0 innings, allowing just one run on two hits and one walk while striking out five.
“The baseball Gods kind of blessed me (in the season opener),” Doyle said. “They gave me a good outing and saved me because I really didn’t locate very well at all. After about the third inning, I really had no idea where the ball was going. I just made enough pitches to get the right amount of outs and I got a little bit lucky.
“The second outing I felt better,” he added. “I located a lot better. The outings were night and day as far as how I felt.”
Doyle has impressed PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina.
“His fastball command was outstanding (in his second start), and he pitched to contact and he was aggressive,” DiSarcina said. “He wasn’t nit-picking. He wasn’t trying to throw his fastball away so it wouldn’t get hit hard. He went right after hitters and he was down in the zone, pitching to contact. He worked quick.”
Doyle and DiSarcina spoke with The Eagle-Tribune on Tuesday. Since then, Doyle made his third start and he again was impressive. He went 7.0 innings and allowed just one run on two hits and one walk while striking out six.
Rhode Island’s math man
Doyle, who majored in mathematics at Boston College, has substituted at three Rhode Island high schools: Toll Gate, Pilgrim and Warwick, teaching AP calculus, statistics, pre-algebra and geometry.
“I’ve done everything,” he said. “It’s ranged from the lowest of the low math to the highest of the high that the schools offer and just everywhere in between.”
He has worked as a high school and middle school substitute teacher every offseason he has been in professional baseball except for this past one.
“Minor league salary for guys that get drafted is $1,000 a month during the season only,” Doyle explained. “So $8,000 max for over a year. And that’s not enough money to live on for most guys, especially guys who have families. I’m a single guy so it was a little bit easier for me but the offseason jobs that guys have, it’s mandatory for the most part.”
The math of baseball
You’d think a pitcher who majored in math would be focused on sabermetrics, but that’s not the case with Doyle, who scored an 800 on his math SATs
“For the most part, I just go out there and the numbers don’t matter,” Doyle said. “You’re just trying to get outs. The numbers that I look at our how many times guys steal bases, how many times guys hit home runs, how many times guys swing at the first pitch, things like that. Guys who walk a lot. Guys who strike out a lot.”
Doyle doesn’t have a blazing fastball. It’s in the high-80s and low-90s. So he doesn’t need to pore over any stats to realize that he needs to use his control and movement to retire batters.
Former Chicago White Sox All-Star reliever Bobby Thigpen was Doyle’s pitching coach in High-A.
“He was a big sinker guy,” Doyle said. “He said, “Throw it over the middle, let it run and let them hit ground balls. You’re going to get them out in front and you’re going to get them over the top of it. Just throw it.’ I think that’s where it kind of clicked for me that I could just throw it and trust it enough to be a sinker guy.”
Doyle said he throws his two-seam fastball all day if he is locating it.
“But I locate my four-seamer a little better usually, so it kind of depends on the situation,” Doyle said. “If I need to locate a pitch real well, I’ll throw the four-seam. And if I think they’re going to be aggressive, I’m going to try to force contact and throw the two-seam.”
It’s all about location for the 6-4, 250-pounder.
When he won five straight starts last year for the White Sox’ Triple-A affiliate right before signing a contract to pitch in Japan, he was locating his pitches especially well.
“That was the key for me,” he said.
At home in Pawtucket
His grandmother was so excited when he signed with the Red Sox that she cried. Doyle is part of a talented rotation that includes top prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, who both are on the 40-man roster and therefore, have a better chance of making it to Boston this year than Doyle does.
But don’t rule out Doyle being promoted to the big league club if he continues to pitch like he has so far. He pitched well with the Sox during the exhibition season (14.0 innings, 3.86 ERA) and has been lights out with the PawSox (2-0, 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings).
“We have a pretty good mix of the young guys trying to get up there and the older guys who have been up there who are to get back (to the majors),” Doyle said. “All that means is we have a lot of talent. And it’s fun because we’re winning games and it’s fun because we’re all trying to achieve the same thing. Even though we’re competing with each other, we’re really not.”