BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CBS) – Delaware County, Pa. native TJ Chism was a dual threat during his time at La Salle University, playing first base and also taking the mound, both as a lefthanded starter and as a reliever.

Despite hitting .310 with 11 dingers in 2009, as the June draft approached he knew his future was on the hill.

“I had always pitched and I had always hit growing up, and I always threw hard from the left side, so I knew that pitching was probably going to be my ticket,” he recalls.   “I wasn’t the biggest first baseman in the world, so it wasn’t like I was going to go out and hit 35 home runs in a big-league season.”

Chism was indeed drafted as a pitcher, selected by the New York Mets in the 32nd round.  And he has really come into his own as a reliever.

Since compiling a 4.24 ERA in his first pro season in 2009, Chism has been virtually unhittable.   He fashioned a 0.70 ERA, splitting time between rookie ball and Single-A in 2010, and this season he has gone 3-0 with three saves and a 1.12 ERA coming out of the pen for the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones.

Chism, 23,  talks about what helped flipped the switch after that first pro season.

“To be honest, the main thing for me was focusing on pitching for a complete year.  I never had that in my life.  I was always a hitter — even in college I never focused strictly on pitching.  And I kind of knew that the sky was going to be the limit when I had the opportunity to just focus on pitching.  And the last two years, I’ve had that.”

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Chism, a Sun Valley (Aston, Pa. ) High School graduate, also credits his pitching coach this season, former American League Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola, with really helping his development.

Chism also says that having all that experience with a bat in his hand helps him now on the mound as he tries to get inside the head of opposing hitters.

“Because I had been in the (batter’s) box for my entire life and my entire career.  And I know that hitting is hard.  So you’ve got to take a step back and you can’t give these guys too much credit when they get in the box because it’s not easy to hit.   Seventy percent of the time they are going to get themselves out, so I just hope that I can be in that 70 and not the 30 percent.”

So what is Chism throwing that is leading to all this success?

“Fast ball, curve ball, change-up.  The curve ball is more of a ‘slurve’ kind of thing — it’s more of a slider-curve than anything.  Just three pitches, and I feel confident in any count to throw one.”

Chism’s success has not gone unnoticed.  He recently represented the Cyclones in the New York-Penn league All-Star Game, getting two key late-inning outs.   Overall, he thinks he is on a good track in his development.

“I do.  I feel I’m a little old for the Penn League, but at the same time there’s a lot of guys that are a little old and sometimes they take a little bit more time.  And not being a pitcher my entire life has kind of put me on a little bit slower track because I’m starting to learn a little bit more from the pitching side.  But I feel confident with where I’m at and I’m having fun, so that’s all that counts.”

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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