When the San Diego Padres took Matt Bush as the first pick of the 2004 draft, most thought they chose a questionable option because of his cheaper price. And when Bush struggled to hit in single-A, most assumed he would never make it to the big leagues and he was viewed as one of the biggest draft busts in the history of baseball.
But then the Padres converted Bush to a pitcher in 2007. And now, five years later, there is a good chance Bush will be in the Rays bullpen at some point this season.
Of course, Bush is not the first player to successfully transform from the field to the mound (or vice versa), but if you ask Bush, it wasn’t a transformation to begin with. In fact, pitching was always part of the plan when the Padres drafted him.
“I think that was one of the main reasons I was drafted so high,” said Bush. “I could do both and they could go back to pitching if shortstop wasn’t working out.”
Bush points out that the only reason his development as a pitcher was slowed was because of his Tommy John surgery in 2007. He wouldn’t pitch again in a professional game until the 2010 season. “But other than that, the process hasn’t been too hard,” said Bush. “My mechanics have carried over from the years that I pitched.”
Bush spent the 2011 season in double-A before making one appearance in the triple-A playoffs. In just 50.1 innings, he struck out 77 with just 24 walks. He posted a 4.83 ERA. But his 2.98 FIP suggests he pitched much better than that.
Bush is expected to start the season in triple-A. But depending on how the season goes, he should be in a Rays uniform at some point this year. And then, maybe Bush can finally shake that “bust” label.