Lee Gronkiewicz was pitching down in Mexico this winter, and a few days before New Years, his cell phone rang. On the other line was his mother, however, this conversation would be more than the usual checking in and seeing how everything is going. His mother had some good news to tell her son, news Lee did not know about.
“My mother first called me and told me I received an invitation to spring training,” Gronkiewicz told InsideTheDome.com Wednesday evening. “After that I received a call from Dick Scott [Jays Director of Player Development] and he told me the news.”
This will be the first time in the right-handers five-year career that he will be part of the major league camp, and the excitement level is at an all-time high.
“I am real excited to get to big league camp,” the former Fisher Cat closer said. “I hope to make a good impression on all the coaches and management.”
Gronkiewicz, however, is not only referring to his on-field performance. He wants to be known as an all-around player, and person, both on and off the field.
“I want to show the organization how I can handle everything, from the field to the clubhouse.”
The 27-year-old began the 2005 season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and notched 24 saves in 38 appearances. Gronkiewicz posted a 1.41 ERA while holding opponents to a batting average against mark of .179. The Jays decided to promote the closer following the Eastern League All-Star game, and Gronkiewicz continued his solid performance at Triple-A. The right-hander posted a 2.22 ERA in 28.1 innings with Syracuse and held opponents to a .206 batting average against mark. In 283 career innings, Gronkiewicz has an ERA of 2.39.
Gronkiewicz was sent to pitch in the Mexican Winter League at the conclusion of the 2005 season. In 36 appearances he went 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA, allowing 35 hits in 42.1 innings of work, while issuing 16 walks and recording 35 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .223 off Gronkiewicz in Mexico.
“My experience in Mexico was great” said the 27-year-old. “I loved the city and the fans were outstanding. Baseball is real competitive there and I faced a lot of American veteran batters. The competition definitely helped me grow.”
Although he didn’t plan it - Gronkiewicz pitched out of the stretch the entire time in Mexico. In one game he was summoned in quickly, and didn’t have time to warm up, as a result he did not pitch out of the wind up. After throwing a good game that day, he never threw out of the wind-up again.
“I also worked on being a little quicker to the plate and holding the ball better when runners were on base.”
Although his ultimate goal would be to make the major league club out of spring training, Gronkiewicz is realistic and understands that probably will not happen.
“If I go to Syracuse, I hope to have another quick start to the season, attack hitters and throw a lot of strikes. I want to be ready whenever the big league club might need me.”