When Austin Maddox reflects on the breakthrough season he had in 2017, which culminated with a scoreless inning of relief against the eventual World Series champion Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, he realizes there was value from the early rough patches in his professional career.A
When Austin Maddox reflects on the breakthrough season he had in 2017, which culminated with a scoreless inning of relief against the eventual World Series champion Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, he realizes there was value from the early rough patches in his professional career.
A third-round Draft pick of the Red Sox out of the University of Florida in 2012, Maddox struggled through the South Atlantic League in '13, posting a 5.63 ERA for Boston's Class A Greenville affiliate.
The next season, he went up one level higher to the Carolina League and didn't fare much better, as the hard-throwing righty had a 5.82 ERA.
But it was through those tough times that Maddox found himself, and learned what he needed to do to get better.
"Going into my professional career, I didn't have a lot of pitching experience under my belt and I failed a lot early in my career," Maddox said last weekend at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va. "Getting to pro ball was the first time I had dealt with that kind of failure and I didn't know how to handle it. Learning how to deal with that is a huge part in what I was able to do [in 2017]. It was a huge year for me, but I'm working hard now to get ready for next year."
An accomplished hitter in high school and then in college, when he belted 17 homers for Florida as a freshman, Maddox was a late bloomer as a pitcher. Sure, he misses taking his hacks. But Maddox has no regrets about the path he's on now.
"There's definitely days I miss hitting, but right now I'm focused on pitching and that's kind of the route that my career has taken me, and I'm running with it," Maddox said. "As long as I get to put a big league uniform on, I'm happy."
Last season Maddox put himself on the map for the Red Sox. He came to Spring Training and immediately impressed, nearly winning a spot on the roster out of camp before getting his first callup to Boston in June. Of the 13 times Maddox pitched for the Red Sox, he was unscored on all but once.
Though it was a relatively small sample size, it was enough for Maddox to earn an ALDS roster spot in a heated competition among several Boston right-handers.
"We found out when we got to Houston," Maddox said. "[Manager John] Farrell called me in the office and told me I would be active on the roster for the Series. I wouldn't say I was surprised. I felt like I was ready for the challenge and I'm glad the opportunity was presented to me."
The 26-year-old Maddox is ranked No. 27 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline and he looks to carry the momentum he gained last year into spring camp next month, when the competition for bullpen spots will heat up again under new manager Alex Cora.
"I went home in the offseason with a purpose, and I know what I'm working for because I want to get back to October next year," Maddox said.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.