With a lot of focus on the top prospects that have worn a Kane County Cougars uniform this summer, almost lost has been a solid, under-the-radar performance by pitcher Nathan Dorris.
The 22-year-old left-hander has been a mainstay out of the bullpen, teaming up with righty Stephen Perakslis to form one of the bright spots in what has been a dismal season.
In 34 appearances out of the bullpen, second to Perakslis’ 35, Dorris is tied for the team lead in wins (six), second among active players on the roster in ERA (2.95) and has three saves and 54 strikeouts in 64 innings.
Not only that, he is deadly against left-handed hitters, as they are hitting just .093.
“I felt like every time I’ve gone out there I’ve tried to throw strikes and get our team back in the dugout,” Dorris said. “I’m just happy I get the chance to go out and play professional baseball.”
Dorris grew up in Marion, Ill., and attended Southern Illinois University, where he was a 17th-round pick by the Cubs in the 2012 draft. So far he has done well for himself, posting a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings between the Arizona Rookie League and short-season Boise a year ago, and being named to the Midwest League All-Star team this season.
His biggest strength is his versatility. He can throw short or long relief, and is effective in either role.
In his last 10 appearances dating back to July 24, he has pitched four innings twice and went three innings in his most recent outing Tuesday in Wisconsin. He has worked a two-inning stint four other times, giving up earned runs in just three of those outings.
“He’s done a heck of a job all year,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “He has been steady in any role we have put him in this year. He is steady with his delivery and mechanics, keeps his fastball down and has good movement, and throws his slider and changeup well.
“He has great composure on the mound. Anything we ask of him he does and does well.”
Dorris feels one area he has improved upon is his ability to throw any of his pitches anywhere in the count. He also credits Cougars pitching coach Ron Villone with helping him with his approach and preparation.
Like Dorris, Villone spent his career as a mostly left-handed relief specialist and made over 700 career big league appearances over 15 seasons. They have been on the same page since the beginning, which has helped.
Dorris and the Cougars return home to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for their final series of the season against Peoria, with the three-game set kicking off Saturday and closing out on Labor Day.
“It’s nice to know that the coaching staff trusts me enough to put me in a lot of roles and a lot of situations,” Dorris said. “Villone has recognized my strengths and their weaknesses and how to use that to get the best result. He’s helped me how to handle myself and that has been a blessing.”