Dumatrait keeps focus on Minors
Prospect could be the next to join Reds rotation
LOUISVILLE -- Phil Dumatrait tries to live in the moment. He understands that focusing too heavily on the next step forward may take him one step back. But sometimes, he can't help it.Dumatrait, now in his seventh Minor League season, has spent the better part of the past two seasons with Triple-A Louisville. After being drafted 22nd overall by the Red Sox in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, the 25-year-old left-hander has 120 Minor League starts under his belt. Now, after 15 starts for Louisville this year, Dumatrait is 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA. He's come on strong as of late, giving up an average of three earned runs in his past 10 starts. And, as the Reds continue to struggle to find success on the mound, Dumatrait may soon earn an invitation to make the drive up I-71 towards Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. "If I go out and have quality starts pretty much every time, it will happen," Dumatrait said. "If something happens where I get called up, that's awesome. That's what everybody plays for, you know, to get to the big leagues. And being this close, it's exciting. But I try not to worry about it too much." Worrying about it too much, Dumatrait said, can make the goal seem that much more unreachable. It's a dilemma he shares with all his teammates, each of whom are hoping to climb their way up to the Majors. "I just try to take it start to start," said Louisville left-hander Bobby Livingston, who added some spice to his own Major League campaign by throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Friday night. "You know how baseball is. You can't get too high or too low. You just have to stay on an even keel. "All I worry about is throwing strikes. Other than that, I don't worry about who they're sending down or who they're calling up. It's too much to think about." Louisville manager Rick Sweet understands that his players are hungry for something more. "My players are really never happy," Sweet said. "Nobody wants to be here. The big leagues are always the goal. So, everything we do, everything they do, is directed at getting out of here and getting to the Big Leagues." There is a complex dynamic in any team's clubhouse, but this truth can be magnified in the Minors, as teammates must balance their own personal goals with their dedication to the club. So, when teammates watch each other get called up, and see others get sent back down, Dumatrait said the bond of shared experiences creates a team atmosphere by outweighing players' individual itineraries. When Dumatrait's old roomamte, Homer Bailey, made his first start for the Reds on June 8, jealousy was the furthest emotion from his mind. "With Homer, he was our No. 1 guy, and he's got great stuff," Dumatrait said. "We actually roomed together, and we do things together. I was real happy when he got called up. Brad Salmon, he was another one of my roommates. He's up there [with the Reds], so you know, down here [in Louisville], you do your job and root for guys who get up there. "I think everybody in this clubhouse, when a guy gets called up, we can't be happier. It's awesome to see that guy get called for the first time, or whether it's up and down all season, it's always awesome to see him go up. I hope everybody in here gets to the big leagues, and I'll be rooting them on the whole way." As for his own potential return to the Majors, Dumatrait said that he plans to continue living in the moment, regardless of which end of I-71 the moment may bring him to. "I don't think it seems real yet," he said. "I don't think it will until it happens, and then it will probably set in. Right now, I'm just trying to get better in every start, and help us win down here." If Dumatrait does get his own call up this season, there is little doubt that his teammates will be happy for him. Sweet, though, will have yet another rotation spot to fill. But, he's used to the constant coming and going. "We have a revolving door," Sweet said. "It is constant. It's never-ending. Baseball is often secondary at this level."
Patrick Allegri is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.