Cooper is a man of many roles on the Akron pitching staff
Routine is tough when toggling between a starting and relieving role, but Jordan Cooper has learned to focus on the things he can control.
Cooper, a 24-year-old right-hander from Berryton, Kansas, was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the ninth round of the 2010 draft. He spent last year with the high-A Carolina Mudcats, where he also started the 2013 season.
Though the Carolina League is one of the toughest, Cooper converted the challenge into knowledge gained. He worked on executing pitches and reading opposing hitters with Mudcats’ pitching coach Jeff Harris.
“It was more about pitch sequencing and when to throw what pitch and why to throw it, and kind of learning what the hitter shows you and how to exploit his weaknesses,” Cooper explained.
Cooper found the Achilles of his opponents as he posted a 2.19 ERA with seven walks and 17 strikeouts through four games with the Mudcats, but exploiting the weaknesses of opponents wasn’t the only lesson he learned.
“I think you have to learn quick when you face a new team and you have to have a short memory,” Cooper said. “When you face a new team and you don’t do well or get hit hard, you turn around and face them a week after that so you kind of have to trust your stuff a little bit more and just learn the fact that they have to face you again too.”
Cooper didn’t face the Carolina League very long as he was promoted to double-A Akron at the end of April. So far, he’s posted a 4.14 ERA through 37 innings of work with the Aeros, though he’s added a new role to his line of work.
He’s appeared in 11 games with the Aeros and started just five of them. Cooper is unsure of the organization’s plan for him, but he’s willing to fill whichever role requires him. He prefers starting because it’s easier to stick to a routine which simplifies the daily schedule. That said, he doesn’t let the inconsistencies impede his game.
“I just kind of look at it as trying to numb yourself to it,” Cooper said. “You can’t let anything bother you so much, like I didn’t get my lifting in on this day so I can’t let that affect how I pitch.”
Cooper also noted that with long, cramped bus rides, resilience is key.
“In the minor leagues, something’s always going to go wrong, you’ve just got to numb your body to it,” he added.
As he makes the best of his erratic role, Cooper is now focusing on refinement. He’s fine-tuning all of his pitches and working on their consistency. His biggest goal through the remainder of the season is to simply make better pitches.
“I don’t like to put an emphasis on numbers because you can make good pitches and still get hit,” Cooper said. “I’d like to keep my walks down. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Control is something Cooper firmly believes in, not just in the form of his pitches.
“You just try to focus on things you can control,” he explained. “You can’t control how crowds are going to be at a place. You can’t control whether somebody gets a hit or things like that. You’ve just got to take care of the things you can take care of.”
Cooper’s taking care of himself at a new level of baseball, where he’s learned that execution is everything. From facing older, more experienced opponents to adhering to multiple roles, the challenges are constant. Some elements may be beyond his control but managing the things that matter are well-within his grasp.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.