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Beachy's makes unlikely rise through minors

Gwinnett pitcher Brandon Beachy watches during the G-Braves’ July 30th victory over the Rochester Red Wings. 

Gwinnett pitcher Brandon Beachy watches during the G-Braves’ July 30th victory over the Rochester Red Wings. 

LAWRENCEVILLE — Few could have foreseen Brandon Beachy’s rise through the Atlanta Braves’ farm system and arrival at Class AAA Gwinnett in just over two years. Not for an undrafted free agent out of Indiana Wesleyan University, a National Christian College Athletic Association school.

As a junior at the Marion, Ind., school, Beachy saved six games in 27 innings and also compiled a .296 batting average while leading the team with 48 RBIs. In his final collegiate appearance in the NCCAA World Series semifinals, the right-hander struck out eight and allowed only four hits in a complete-game 6-3 victory. He was noticed by an Atlanta scout in a Virginia wooden bat league and later signed with the Braves in 2008.

“Back then I was a third baseman and a closer, too, but I didn’t really concentrate on pitching so, I didn’t take it as serious,” Beachy said. “I wasn’t really caught up in getting drafted. I didn’t expect it to happen and it didn’t happen. And then it came as a surprise when I signed (with the Braves). It wasn’t really something I thought about a lot back then.”

After signing his free agent contract, Beachy pitched in Danville for the remainder of 2008. By the end of the 2009 season, however, he found himself at Class AA Mississippi. He began this season in the bullpen for the Mississippi Braves, but made the change to starter in June. In his first outing as a starter, on June 18, he struck out seven and allowed just five hits and one walk.

“It’s gone well. I was a reliever to start out and that was going well and (the organization) decided to give me some more innings, so I switched over to starting,” Beachy said. “I have just kind of found a routine with that and I enjoy that a lot.”

His best start of the year came on July 5, when he picked up his third win with Mississippi and struck out 11 batters, giving up just four hits and no walks through seven shutout innings. He was named a Southern League All-Star and struck out two of the three batters he faced in his one-inning appearance on July 12.

By the time he was called up to Class AAA Gwinnett on July 23, Beachy had a 1.47 ERA in 732⁄3 innings, mostly as a reliever with Mississippi.

“If I had to put (my success) on one thing, it would just be experience,” he said. “With the more experience I get, the better command I have with my pitches and I’m just getting a little smarter when it comes to pitching.”

His scheduled debut with Gwinnett on July 26 was delayed because of rain, but he came in the next day as a reliever behind rehab starter Chris Resop and struck out seven in four innings. Although he allowed three runs, including a home run, Beachy made an impression on pitching coach Derek Botelho.

“He showed me three quality pitches, three average major-league pitches,” Botelho said. “He attacked the strike zone, he held runners well. Just everything Phil Wellman, the manager in Mississippi and Marty Reed, the pitching coach, had been preaching to me before he got here. They said, ‘You’re going to love this guy. He does everything well. He’s a very good athlete and he’s really come on.’ I was really impressed.”

On Monday, Beachy made his first start with Gwinnett and battled through six hard innings, striking out five and allowing only one run en route to his first Class AAA win.

“You learn a lot about yourself on those nights,” Beachy said after the game. “It’s a lot harder.”

In only his second full year of pitching, he’s still learning and continues to gain experience and confidence, which is a scary thought for Gwinnett’s, and perhaps also Atlanta’s, opponents the rest of the way.