BRISTOL - A move to the bullpen may have been just what Bristol Blues pitcher Justin Rouse needed to get back on track.
Over two starts in June, Rouse allowed eight runs, seven earned, over a combined seven innings. He gave up eight walks and 10 hits.
With Rouse’s command in trouble, Blues manager Ronnie Palmer was forced to move him to the bullpen. The move not only took pressure off him, but helped him focus on areas of his game that needed improvement.
“I feel like out of the pen it’s just a nice reset button for me, just so I can go out there and pitch my game for one inning, don’t have to worry about anything, and just get back into everything easier,” Rouse said.
Since moving to the bullpen, Rouse has seen some improvement, especially in July. This month, he has pitched 4 1/3 innings over four relief appearances, allowing two earned runs, both in his most recent appearance. He has struck out three batters and walked two.
Despite giving up two runs on three hits in his most recent outing against the North Shore Navigators on July 19, he was credited with the victory in a 6-4 win for the Blues.
“It’s been alright. It’s had some ups and downs,” Rouse said. “Main thing is moving on. Learn from my starts, learn from my appearances. Just try and get better every time I go out there.”
He found that nerves played a big factor in his ability to pitch for Bristol.
“I feel as if my first couple starts I was just thinking too much, I wasn’t playing my game honestly,” Rouse said.
One of his biggest challenges this season was his ability to control his fastball, a struggle he attributed to his lack of experience seeing live batters this year.
A Williamstown, N.J., native, Rouse spent this past spring as a redshire freshman at the University of Rhode Island.
“The fall of my freshman year I did pretty well with my fastball command, but I feel as if mainly [my early struggles with the Blues were] because I’ve been out so long and I haven’t seen live batters for so long,” Rouse said. “I feel like earlier in the game, I lose my fastball command.”
As he works to keep improving, Rouse thinks there is a chance he will return to the starting slot before the end of the season.
“I feel as if there there is some plans for me to go back to starting,” Rouse said.
While Rouse fights to improve his material, the Blues’ pitching overall has had a few hiccups throughout the course of the season. The team is ranked fourth out of the seven FCBL teams in pitching.