Baseball draft: Sox select Bucciferro
By Dick Goss email@example.com June 6, 2012 8:06PM
Tony Bucciferro, of Michigan State. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:48PM
Tony Bucciferro describes his whirlwind Tuesday as “an experience; it was good.”
Then he adds with a laugh, “But I don’t want to have to go through a day like that again.”
The right-handed pitcher, a Joliet native who graduated from Minooka in 2008 and just completed his senior season at Michigan State, was selected by the White Sox in the 14th round (No. 441 overall) of the Major League Baseball free-agent draft.
“I was getting a bunch of calls from teams before the draft,” he said. “I got a couple of calls during the draft where a team would say I may be drafted this round. Then that round would pass, and my heart would sink. I didn’t know if it would ever come.”
Bucciferro said he has taken grief through the years because of his allegiance to Chicago baseball, so being selected by the Sox is ironic.
“I’ve always been a Chicago fan, not specifically a Sox fan or Cubs fan, and people made fun of me because of that,” he said. “My dad and sister are Cubs fans, and most of the rest of my family are Sox fans.
“Yeah, I’d say now I’m leaning more toward the Sox.”
In Bucciferro’s senior season at Minooka, Mike Foltynewicz was a sophomore. The latter would become the No. 1 draft pick of the Houston Astros in 2010, thanks in no small part to a mid-90s heater.
Bucciferro is not of that ilk. His fastball generally is around 87-88 mph, though he can crank it up to the low-90s if the situation demands. Rather, he relies on movement and location, which has served him well.
Bucciferro was 6-4 this season and led the Big Ten with 94 strikeouts, the fifth most in Michigan State history. He led the conference with a school-record 1111/3 innings and was ninth in ERA (3.07) and 10th in opponent batting average (.250).
He ended his four-year career as the school leader in innings (3721/3) and starts (55) and is second in strikeouts (273) and third in wins (26).
“I’m not going to change anything now that I’m going into pro ball,” said Bucciferro, who indicated he may meet with the Sox to talk contract as early as Thursday. “I’ll go out there and play my game and have some fun with it.
“I can throw harder, but that sacrifices location and movement. I’ve been successful off my movement, and I get ahead with my command.”
When you pitch in that manner, as Bucciferro noted, “you have the advantage of being able to pump up the fastball in certain situations, and that actually becomes another pitch.”
Bucciferro throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider and a change, and he also mixes in a curve.
“What matters is that I command them all,” he said. “Every hitter and every at-bat is different, so I have to keep switching it up.”
“Tony always thought like a pitcher,” longtime Minooka pitching coach Jim Lamping noted. “When he wasn’t doing something, he’d always be playing with the ball in his hand, thinking about how he could get it to move more. He depends on control and changing speeds.
“He’s a guy who has won everywhere he has gone, and he’s also the type who will use pitching to the wood bat to his advantage. He learned a long time ago how to pitch inside.”
Bucciferro has enjoyed success the last three summers in wood bat collegiate leagues. He ranked fourth in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer with a 1.90 ERA, was an All-Star and pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star game at Fenway Park.
“I enjoy the wood bat a lot more than metal,” he laughed. “One of my strengths is to go inside on hitters. But especially a couple years ago, before they changed the bats (in college ball), guys wouldn’t hit it on the right part of the bat and the ball still could go out. That wasn’t a lot of fun.”
Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said Bucciferro is the fifth player the Indians program has sent into pro baseball during his nine-year tenure. The others were Gary Perinar, Andrew Moss, Cole Tyrell and Foltynewicz.
“When you’re the No. 1 pitcher at Michigan State, you’re doing something right,” Petrovic said. “Tony is a terrific kid and one of our best pitchers ever. What a great opportunity to chase his dream.”
“My whole life I wanted this, so it’s an exciting time,” Bucciferro said. “I went to good school that prepared me for it. I’m looking forward to representing our town at the next level.”