Breakout Performer: Indians Ace Justin Masterson Is Doing Bad Things with a Baseball
Four years ago the Red Sox traded sinkerballer Justin Masterson, whom the team had drafted in 2006, to the Indians for a season and a half of Victor Martinez's services. The following season, Masterson threw his first complete game shutout against Boston, giving them a glimpse of the potential they had sent packing. It took a few more seasons for him to truly harness his powers—he'd probably enjoy a mulligan on his 2012 campaign—but now the 6'6" righty is in control and turning out dominant performances on the reg.
Since being named the Indians' 2013 Opening Day starter, Masterson has thrown at least 6 innings in all but 2 of his 24 starts this season; during those outings he's tallied 13 wins, 166 strikeouts in 164 innings, a 3.46 ERA, and three complete game shutouts. In honor of his emergence, we present all things Masterson.
"They said, 'We want you in the big leagues, but we don't have any starting spots.' That's how it started out. ... 'Will that keep me [in the Majors] the whole year? Yeah? OK.'"
Years before he was taking the bump every five days, young Masterson and his an unusual three-quarter delivery were relegated to the pen by Boston. He took the quasi-demotion he took in stride.
"I think it might be raining down here, some seeds, maybe a little water ..."
When Masterson's teammates doused him during an interview, he reacted by not reacting at all. Stick around until the 1:00 mark when his casual indifference reaches ninja level.
Of course, he's not always the victim ...
Giving reliever Vinny Pestano a shower.
"The boys played good defense, made some good plays out there, and they were just crushing balls. And they were putting runs on the board, and it makes the job on the pitcher a lot easier.''
Masterson deflected praise after besting both reigning Cy Young winners in consecutive starts. First he beat R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays on Opening Day, and then he hurled seven scoreless on April 7 against the Rays and A.L. Cy Young winner David Price . According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only other pitchers to slay both Cy's in the same season were Bruce Hurst in 1989 and Shane Reynolds in 2003. Masterson is the only one to do so in his first two starts.
Then, in his third start of the season, Masterson spun a complete game shutout against the White Sox.
“He threw an obscene amount of strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “He was attacking the zone, and he was quick to the plate when runners got on. It was fun to watch.” Masterson abused the White Sox once again on June 30 with another complete game shutout, taking no hitter into the 8th. He also shut out the Yankees on May 13. The highlights from the April 12 game are filthy:
"If you do the little dance after you throw a strike in baseball, or even if you strike somebody out and do a little dance, I don't think people would like it. But if you get three strikes in bowling, you have to do the turkey dance. Maybe I should start doing the turkey dance on the mound."
Then man's an avid bowler, and one with unparalleled taste in socks.
Delmon Young, one of Masterson's 166 strikeout victims, was frozen by a hellish breaking ball.
"My least favorite food is beets. My mom loves them, but they taste like dirt."
More on that, plus a word about his affinity for chili dogs and his ruined baseball tie, in MLB's "Now You Know" segment:
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After the Red Sox clinched the 2008 AL Wild Card during Masterson's rookie season, the youngster expertly interview-bombed veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
This is what happened when Masterson got some face time ...
The jovial pitcher delivered a stellar answer to the empty question, "Are you going to have time to enjoy this victory?"
A tender moment with Terry Francona, who has managed Masterson on both the Red Sox and Indians.
"The opportunity to try and positively impact some lives is inspiration enough for me. I went to the Dominican in college and have had a love for the language and people ever since."
Masterson is a devout Christian who dedicates himself to charitable endeavors both in and out of season. He's an advocate for Bright Hope, which partners with local churches internationally to fight poverty. He also supports One Child Matters (previously known as Mission of Mercy), a group he joins in the Dominican Republic every offseason to assist with construction projects, share Christian ideals, and play some stickball.
He discussed Bright Hope at Citi Field during All-Star festivies.
His wife Meryl Masterson operates Home Plate Cookies, the proceeds of which benefit several charities.
Masterson serves as a taste tester and helps the business get Facebook "likes."
Masterson was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
He lived there briefly, until his family moved to Indiana and then Ohio. When the Red Sox gave Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt first pitch honors at Fenway in April 2009, Masterson, a catcher until his senior year in high school, caught Bolt's offering.
"I enjoy shaving heads ... I didn't really think anyone would trust me to shave their head, but sure enough they did."
Masterson has been rocking a blank dome since high school when he had to beg his mother to allow him to bic it. When the Indians wives held a charity auction recently, Masterson's wife suggested raffling off a haircut by Justin in the Indians dugout. He did ... ok. [mlbvideo id="29302727" width="600" height="336" /]