Rancho Cucamonga, California —— The last thing Trevor Frank ever expected was that he’d leave the Cleveland Indians.
A right-handed reliever who wrapped the 2016 season at High-A Lynchburg with 17 saves, a 2.47 ERA, and a meager .191 opponents’ batting average over 43.2 innings, the righty was sent off to the prestigious Arizona Fall League to pitch for the Mesa Solar Sox last October. The AFL is prime territory for showing off prospects ahead of winter trades, of course, but Trevor Frank didn’t think he threw well enough in the fall to warrant any interest from other organizations.
“I didn’t have the greatest Fall League, so I didn’t think anything was going to happen,” Frank admitted to Baseball Census in a pre-game interview on Tuesday afternoon at LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga.
Moving organizations, whether via the Rule 5 Draft, trade, or free agency, can be a shock to a prospect who hasn’t yet been through the roster churn of the big leagues. And so it was to Frank, who suddenly found himself back home in southern California—he was a bit shellshocked to have left the Cleveland Indians during a winter where he thought he might be added to their 40-man roster.
“The Indians were trying to keep me, they told me that they were trying to hide me so they could keep me, but they only had one [40-man roster] spot open, so they couldn’t really do much,” Frank remembered. “They put [Francisco Mejia] on [the 40-man], which, you can’t not put him on there. He’s an amazing catcher, he was my catcher last year.”
“But when I went to Petco [Park] and worked out there in the offseason, [the San Diego Padres] told me they had wanted me in the [Rule 5] Draft, so they were happy that I came up on the list to pick,” Frank recalled. “And that’s the only way you can take it. Somebody wants you. It’s been nice that it’s my hometown team. There are some changes — nothing has been drastic, but the way the Padres run things is a little bit different [than the Indians]. But it’s good to be settled in. All the guys that are coordinators here were guys I looked up to when I was younger, so it’s pretty cool to meet them.”
As much as Trevor Frank has been able to find a home here with the San Diego Padres, and this summer their High-A affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm, that’s not to say changes haven’t been significant. The Cleveland Indians had him closing at High-A Lynchburg, but his role this season has taken on a more multi-inning look, and that has been a challenge for Frank to figure out.
“The Padres had me throwing mostly just one inning for a while, but recently in the last couple months they’ve been pushing me to two and three innings,” he noted, having thrown multiple innings in eleven of his 38 outings this summer compared to just two multi-inning outings in 44 appearances last year. “I’ve been struggling a little bit in those third innings, but I’m just trying to do whatever they need. Obviously, I haven’t really moved [up] much yet, but I’ll do whatever they need me to do to get to the big leagues. That’s where I want to be.”
Frank will have to put in work to get there upon seeing a return to earth this summer after his stellar 2016 season in High-A with the Cleveland Indians. He’s missing more bats than he ever has, though — 64 strikeouts in 52.0 innings this summer — and his command has been impeccable, walking just nine hitters in those 52 innings while earning three wins and seven saves in relief across Lake Elsinore and a brief two-game stint at Triple-A El Paso. But he’s proven to be significantly more hittable this year than last, perhaps a testament to the difficulty in following up a great year, but also likely an issue related to where he’s pitching. To put it bluntly, his experiences in the California League and the Pacific Coast League this summer have been an awakening for Trevor Frank.
“It’s totally different here,” he said, laughing when asked about pitching in the Cal League in the knowing way that reveals the league’s reputation among players. “Pitching here means being smart. Here, you can’t really miss a pitch. There [in the Carolina League], if you leave a slider up, you might get away with it. It probably won’t go out of the park. But you have to pitch different here. You have to go after guys and be confident, because if you’re not confident, you’re going to get hit. Bobby Bradley last year [with the Cleveland Indians in Lynchburg], he had almost 30 home runs in the Carolina League, and if he was playing here, it would have been insane seeing how many home runs he would have hit.”
Even a two-appearance stint in Triple-A — with both games coming for El Paso on the road in hitter-friendly Las Vegas — taught Frank that pitching out west in windy, dry ballparks requires a certain level of intent that doesn’t always need to show up as consistently in humid, muggy, low-altitude places back east.
“When I went up for six days to Triple-A, I pitched well my first outing, and then I got kind of lackadaisical and I wasn’t throwing with confidence,” the righty recalled. “Next thing I know, I wasn’t getting ahead of guys, and they started hitting it. And that’s really the thing here. If you don’t get ahead of guys, they’re going to get you. I think that’s the biggest difference I’ve seen out here.”
That, and being back home, of course.
Living with family in Menifee and enjoying his time back around his high school haunts in El Cajon, Trevor Frank sure could have it a lot worse than he does, all things considered. He’s comfortable now in his new organization, and coming around to how the San Diego Padres see his future role, too. To that end, he may not be far from reaching his dream of throwing at the club’s gorgeous downtown ballpark where he spent so many days as a kid watching his beloved hometown team. Maybe things didn’t work out too badly after all.