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After only four big-league games, it’s safe to say that David Bush is more than a one-hit wonder. The rookie righthander’s 1-1 record could easily be 4-0 with a little more support from his teammates. In two of his starts, the Jays’ bats have fallen completely silent, and another time, the bullpen couldn’t hold a two run lead. One of those no-decisions was a masterpiece — eight innings of one-hit shutout. Bush took a no-hitter into the eighth before Damian Miller of the A’s singled to break it up.

Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2002 amateur draft had a tremendous college career at Wake Forest. As a junior, Bush was all-conference and MVP of the ACC Tournament, leading the Demon Deacons to the championship. He was even better as a senior, and since turning pro, has impressed everyone in the Toronto organization.

Marty Pevey, his manager in Syracuse, told reporters, "I would love to have five David Bushes."

Gil Patterson, who hadn't seen Bush since spring training, is another fan. “He’s been awesome,” the Blue Jays pitching coach says. “The poise and composure he had then, he continues to have.”

Patterson hasn’t needed to do much fine tuning with his newest pitcher. “He told me a couple of things to look for mechanically, but mostly, I’ve left him alone. He’s been a pleasure to be around, and our minor-league people have a lot to be proud of in helping develop him.”

We talked to Dave in the dugout, the day before he earned his first major league win. The Pittsburgh native moved to the Philadelphia area when he was two and grew up liking Mitch Williams better than Duane Ward.

“I rooted for the Phillies my whole life, and 1993 was the only year they were any good,” the 24-year-old says with a smile. “I was 13 then, and really became a huge fan for the first time. To have them lose to the Blue Jays was really disappointing, but it’s kind of ironic, now that I’m playing here.”

Bush enjoyed baseball as a player and a fan, though it wasn’t his only sport. “I played a little bit of everything growing up — football, soccer, wrestling, swimming.”

At Conestoga High in Devon, Pennsylvania, David was a catcher, but like so many talented position players at that level, he was also asked to pitch. “Just a little, in my senior year,” he recalls. “I threw hard, had a strong arm, and they tried to take advantage of that. I didn’t have any experience, and I didn’t really throw anything but fastballs.”

He's too modest about his high school exploits, for a guy who didn’t give up an earned run all season in the closer role, while hitting over .400 and allowing just one stolen base behind the plate. Dave was a three-time prep all-star, league MVP in both his junior and senior years, and made the USA Today All-American team in 1998.

Though he was recruited by Wake Forest as a catcher, and never imagined he'd become a pitcher, circumstances intervened. “They had a senior catcher who was playing every day, and I was struggling to hit in my first fall season, so they asked me to try it, as we were a bit short on pitching. I certainly agreed, because you want to help the team any way possible.”

Again, Bush downplays his remarkable success.

“Most of my freshman year, I pitched in non-pressure situations, when we were up by a lot or down by a lot, so I could get my feet wet without having to worry about results so much.”

Obviously, learning how to pitch as a freshman in one of the toughest conferences in the country had its ups and downs. What Dave neglects to mention is that in the ACC title game that year, definitely a pressure situation, he retired 16 of the 17 batters he faced, striking out six to clinch Wake Forest’s championship. He had also pitched a scoreless inning earlier the same day.

Following that NCAA campaign, Bush played summer ball in Fairbanks for the Alaska Panhandlers, an experience he remembers with visible enthusiasm.

“Alaska was awesome. That’s where I got to close for the first time, and I had just an incredible experience up there, on and off the field. You see stuff there you don’t see anywhere else, and it was also a chance for me to play against some very good players from the west coast, the California schools.”

After his sophomore and junior college seasons, Bush went to the Cape Cod League, where he honed his skills, filled out his athletic 6'2" frame to 210 pounds and attracted plenty of attention from pro scouts. He considers it an important part of his development.

“The Cape has the reputation of being one of the best summer leagues, with great players from all across the country, so you’re testing yourself against the best at the college level. It was really good for me.”

In both his CCBL seasons, Bush made the all-star team. He was ranked the second-best pro prospect in the league by Baseball America, finishing the 2001 season with a microscopic 0.34 ERA in 26.2 innings, with 35 strikeouts and only three walks.

In March of his junior year, Sam Walker profiled Bush for Bobby Moranda, the Deacons pitching coach, had no doubts about his closer's future. “I've had some big leaguers, and this guy has big leagues written all over him."

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays agreed, selecting Bush in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. However, they couldn’t get his name on a contract.

“We negotiated back and forth all summer, and just couldn’t come to a deal we were both comfortable with. It wasn’t any one factor. I went back up to the Cape so I could keep playing and stay in shape, and as the summer dragged on, it seemed less likely we were going to get a deal done. In August, I decided that playing my senior year and getting my degree would be more valuable to me than signing at that point.”

Going back to school helped Bush set an all-time NCAA record for appearances, as his college stats improved for the fourth consecutive season. In his senior year, he went 8-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 13 saves and 61 K in 60.1 IP, walking just 10 and giving up only 47 hits.

Dave was also an excellent student, nominated to all-academic teams. When asked if his psychology degree was useful against major-league hitters, he shook his head and laughed.

“I wish I could say it helps me out.”

He does credit staying in school for making him more mature, and preparing him better for the demands of professional baseball. Toronto fans are delighted he made that decision.

“It worked out better all the way around,” Bush agrees. “I got to play my senior year, got my degree, and moved up a couple of rounds when the Jays drafted me. I’m in a good organization, in a good position. They wanted guys who were ready to go and could move quickly, and I think I fit that description.”

After signing with the Jays, the righty dominated the NYPL, fanning 39 batters in just 22.1 innings while allowing only 13 hits and 7 walks. He expected to do well at that level.

“In short-season, a lot of guys just got drafted, some of them are out of high school and the college kids have been using metal bats all year, so it’s like summer ball, where you’re facing guys with wood for the first time. It takes a while for hitters to adjust to that, and I was closing, so I just went right after guys.”

His brilliance in Auburn earned him a late-season promotion directly to High-A, where in seven appearances, he fashioned a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 IP against considerably more polished hitters. That was an eye-opener.

“I noticed quite a bit of difference when I got to the Florida State League,” Bush explains. “Everyone has a couple of years of experience in the minor leagues, they’re a little more refined, and that was the first time I realized how much of a jump there is at each level. Players are stronger, and more disciplined.”

The conversion from catching to pitching had been one huge adjustment, but the Jays had another change in mind for the prospect before his second pro season — a move to the starting rotation.

“It really wasn’t anything I’d ever thought about,” he admits. “I’d never started in my entire life. They came to me in spring training; it wasn’t a suggestion, they just told me I was going to do it. I was kind of lukewarm about it at first, but it was presented to me as finding out if I could do it, because starters in the long run are more valuable than relievers. Also it was a way of getting me more innings, and the more innings you pitch, the faster you can develop. They said it would get you out there more, teach you more pitches, and if it doesn’t work out, we already know you can relieve. We’ve got that to fall back on, so why not give it a try for a year? It’s a lot easier to try that when you’re 23 than when you’re 26 or 27, so I went along with it.”

Those initial reservations didn’t last long; Bush is a quick study.

“It probably took me a month or so to find a routine, what you do between starts in those four days off, not only physically, but how you deal with it mentally, which can depend on whether you had a good start or a bad start. You’re trying to learn from it, but not dwell on it, for four days. I also had to get my pitch count up — throwing 100 or 110 pitches was a lot different than 15 or 20. So it was a process, but I figured some things out.”

The numbers suggest he had very little difficulty making the change. Even more impressive was his ability to jump to Double-A without missing a beat. For Dunedin, he went 7-3 in 14 starts with a 2.81 ERA, then in New Haven, he was a nearly identical 7-3 in 14 starts with a 2.78 ERA. He struck out 73 while walking just 9 in 77 innings of A-ball; Eastern League hitters managed a few more hits and walks, but 75 K to 19 BB is quite respectable.

This year, in only his second full season as a pro, with just 28 lifetime starts at any level, he stepped up another level. Once again, he was equal to the challenge, leading the International League in strikeouts, though not without a few setbacks along the way.

“I felt like the jump from Double-A to Triple-A was the biggest one on the way up, mostly because you get a lot of guys who are older, who have been in the big leagues. There’s a lot of experience, a lot of patience, the hitters make you become more disciplined as a pitcher, throwing all your pitches for strikes, especially in fastball counts.

Bush has heard stories of players whose coaches had a little fun before informing them they were going to the Show, but he wasn't the victim of any pranks.

“We were on the road in Columbus and had been struggling pretty badly when the manager called me into the office. I think we got beat by ten runs that night, so I figured he wasn’t in much of a joking mood. He told me that losing five or six in a row made his job tough, but there were good things about it too, like being able to tell me I was moving up tomorrow.”

Making his first big-league start in Puerto Rico, of all places, must have been almost surreal.

“It definitely wasn’t your typical debut,” he says with a chuckle. “I flew down to Tampa Bay to meet the team, they played the last game of that series and then we flew to San Juan. It all happened so fast, and I really didn’t know what I was facing; I’d never been through any of it before.

“In a way, it made it a little bit easier, because it was like Triple-A — the stadium wasn’t all that great, the crowd wasn’t very big, so the surroundings really didn’t change very much. The biggest difference was who I was up against.”

It was a hot and humid night, and it's impossible for a young athlete to keep from being emotional at such a time. Those things affect any pitcher’s stamina, and Bush was no exception.

“You expend a lot of energy — not on purpose — just being excited. I wasn’t able to sleep that well the night before, knowing I was going to pitch, and we had a long plane flight. It all factors in, and takes a lot more out of you than you realize. By the time I got to the fifth or sixth inning, I was feeling it. Then I had a really long at-bat, 11 or 12 pitches, against Brad Wilkerson leading off the sixth, and that sapped me a bit.”

After 5 2/3 innings and 93 pitches (57 for strikes) Bush left the game trailing 1-0. His teammates couldn’t touch Livan Hernandez, who spun a 4-hit shutout. While unhappy that the Jays lost, Dave was satisfied with his effort.

“When you make your debut, you’re not sure how it’s going to go. Once I got through the first inning, I was able to come back to the dugout and relax. That quick inning gave me a chance to catch my breath and get started again.”

Six days later, in his SkyDome debut, the hitters showed up but the bullpen let him down. Bush wasn’t nearly as effective that night, allowing 10 hits in six innings, though he settled down after the Mariners scored four runs in the first two frames to blank them for four more innings. The Jays blew his 6-4 lead, before coming back to win it on Carlos Delgado’s walkoff 3-run homer.

He'd pitched well enough to win in both previous outings, and believes that “Each time you go out there, you get more comfortable,” but even Bush wasn’t anticipating anything special before his third start, on July 20 in Oakland.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, because I hadn’t pitched in 12 days; we had four days off for the break, then they started the rotation over again. So it had been a while, but that let me throw an extra couple of times on the side and work on my mechanics. I was well rested, and just went out and pitched my game.”

In another classic understatement, he says, "It worked out pretty well.” At what point did he start contemplating a no-hitter?

“I’d say about the fourth or fifth inning. A lot of times, you can go through the order the first time without any hits, especially when they haven’t ever seen you before. I hadn’t seen them either, so the first time through, you’re kind of feeling each other out. As you start facing each hitter again, well, every pitcher knows when they have, or haven’t, given up hits. So I was fully aware that I had something going.”

One reason for his sensational performance was diligent preparation.

“We have a lot of scouting reports, and a lot of stuff on video, and the night before I got to watch Josh Towers pitch. He’s a righthander with similar stuff to mine, in terms of the types of pitches he throws and how he attacks hitters, so I was able to watch that on TV and pick apart what they were swinging at and how he got them out. That gave me an idea of what I wanted to do when I got out there.

“You go over everything with the catchers and coaches, but it’s still a feeling-out process. Before I know what I want to do, I need to see how they’re reacting. I had a little trouble with Chavez; I walked him twice, the first two times up, just trying to be a bit too fine, then I settled down and went after guys. Throw strikes, and see what they do with them.”

In most great starts, there are a couple of key defensive plays. Orlando Hudson kept the no-hitter alive with a terrific catch of a line drive that had “single” written all over it.

“Yeah, there’s no way a pitcher can go that long without giving up any hits unless there are some spectacular plays behind him,” Bush says with admiration. “O-Dog made a great play on that one, a diving ball in the four-hole, and certainly I needed that one. They hit a couple of line drives right at people, one to Gomez leading off the game, and Vernon made a couple of catches in deep center, so they made a few loud outs.”

He looked relaxed all afternoon, showing appreciation for the good plays, but didn’t display any emotion after the first hit. That was by design.

“You try to stay as poised as possible. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, to stay calm and not worry about what’s going on around you. In that situation the other day, I was working on a no-hitter, but I was also working on a 0-0 game, so after giving up that hit, I had to stay under control. A double in the gap scores a run, and maybe we lose. Sure I was disappointed, and it was a bit of a letdown, but at the same time, I still needed two more outs to get out of the inning without allowing a run, so I had to quickly refocus myself for the next couple of hitters.”

Dave seems to be taking the accomplishment in stride. As he told Spencer Fordin of, “I know there have been a lot of great pitchers that never got that close. I'm sure I'll appreciate it more as time goes on, but it was pretty incredible.”

Getting in sync with Gil Patterson has been easy for Bush.

“I got to work with all the coaches in spring training, and pitched a couple of times in the big-league camp, so that helped me be comfortable, and when I got up here, Gil knew what he had coming and what I had to offer. He’s worked with me, trying to refine things here and there, but you don’t have to make too many drastic changes, especially in midseason. We’re all looking to make minor adjustments to be more successful, and as we go along, there will be scouting reports out there on me, so I’ll have to adapt.”

Patterson, who puts as much emphasis on the mental aspects of the game as he does on mechanics, has high praise for the rookie’s makeup.

“He’s got a good ability to maintain his delivery, which is going to help him throw strikes, and he doesn’t let any internal or external factors disrupt that. He doesn’t let pressure, or the game conditions, affect the way he’s going to throw his next pitch. Sometimes it takes years for guys to learn that, and he’s doing it right away.”

It also helps to have good stuff, and his coach says Bush has the whole arsenal working.

“His four-seamer’s been outstanding and his two-seamer’s been very good. He’s used his curve and slider well, and his changeup. The only thing we’ve done is change the grip on his changeup to get a little more depth and run to it rather than cut.”

David describes his approach in simple terms that make it sound easy.

“I try to go right at guys, throw strikes, limit the amount of walks I give up — I had three the other day, which is a bit high for me — I just try to attack the zone with all my pitches, stay on the offensive. Give them stuff to hit, and if they hit it, hope it’s at people. Depending on the scouting report, maybe you know a guy is a good breaking-ball hitter and you approach a situation differently, but for the most part, I try to throw all my pitches, whenever.”

Although he's faced a couple of opposition aces already, that doesn’t affect Bush's mindset.

“All you can do is try to put up as many zeroes on the scoreboard as possible. If their guy matches me, like Harden did and Livan Hernandez did, you tip your hat to them. Those are two great pitchers, who both had great stuff. Those things even out; we won’t get shut out every time I pitch. The same thing just happened to Ted Lilly; he pitched a great game, but so did El Duque. There will be days when our offence scores a lot of runs for me. You try not to worry about that, and it doesn’t change my approach.”

As just the second player from J.P. Ricciardi’s initial draft to reach the majors, and looking like the first one who is going to stick around, Dave is pleasantly surprised at his rapid advancement.

“It’s all happened pretty quickly. Everyone has dreams, but especially when I was switched to a starter last year, which was a whole new environment and I was still in A-ball, you don’t know how quickly you’re going to move up.”

Without singling out anyone in particular, he agrees that there are many other live arms in the Toronto system. Told that some Bauxites believe Shaun Marcum is following a similar path, Bush could see the similarities; he thinks being a converted position player can be an advantage.

“It’s not just what kind of arm you have, it’s how you use it when you get out on the mound. If he’s doing the same things that worked for me, and he’s a competitor, he’ll get a chance to move up just as quickly.”

While he’s more than happy in the rotation, if the team asked him to return to short relief, he wouldn’t complain.

“Not one bit. Having done both now, I’m comfortable either way. Anything you can do to be successful and stay in the big leagues is what you want to do, and if they feel that suits me and the organization best, I’ll do it. What I really liked about relieving was the adrenalin when the phone rang; most of the time you’re coming into the game in a pressure situation. I’m used to every fifth day now, and the way you prepare for that, but both jobs have their advantages.”

What does Bush think about living and working in Toronto?

“I like everything so far. I’ve only been around for a couple of weeks, but it’s a very good first impression.”

Dave, the feeling is mutual.
Meet Dave Bush | 22 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike D - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#29665) #
Bush seems not only likeable, but level-headed enough to perform with consistency for years to come.

Great interview, Coach. I feel like I can add Mr. Bush to "the Daves I know."
Mike Green - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#29666) #
I didn't know that Dave Bush was an excellent student, on top of his athletic achievements. Not that it surprises me.

Great interview, Coach.
Thomas - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:24 PM EDT (#29667) #
Excellent interview Coach, one of the best I think.

He appears to have the perfect mindset for the major leagues.

My question is was were the Jays already considering making Bush a starter before the draft? If so, was there something particular they saw in him that they didn't see in other college relievers, or was it simply a case of the best drafting the best arm available, and then trying him as a starter regardless? It's relatively rare to see the conversion from reliever to starter, especially from someone who converted to pitching and had one career start at Wake Forest.
_Rob - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#29668) #
It seems most of the new Jays (drafted, traded for, signed, or otherwise) are good people, not just good baseball players. I hope this trend continues.
Mike Green - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#29669) #
Thomas, the Jays have attempted three relief-to-start conversions in the last 2 years- Bush, Maureau and Marcum. Two seem to have definitely taken. Judging by the pattern, I'd guess that this has been planned by the organization. It would make a good question for JP.
_Four Seamer - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:46 PM EDT (#29670) #
A truly superior interview, Coach.

I'm liking Mr. Bush immensely both on and off the field.
_Kevin Pataky - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#29671) #
Dave is getting married during the off season. No details on that yet ... I do know he was working on the plans while up at the Cape over the All Star break. We've had him and his fiancee over for dinner a few times. Lovely couple!
_Jobu - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:12 PM EDT (#29672) #
What if this whole rise to success is all part of Philly Phan Bush's feindish master plan. And when he becomes one the aces in the rotation a few years down the line and the Jays are in the 7th game of the world series and they call him out of the bullpen to close out HLH's 1-0 lead in the 9th inning he "accidentaly" throws a meatball right down the pipe? ;)

Just kidding, great guy to have aboard.
Gerry - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#29673) #
All the minor league personnel I talked with say that David is a very intelligent pitcher. This story really brings out that side of him.

Well done.
_Mosely - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:38 PM EDT (#29674) #
Coach you're in the wrong industry. That was fantastic as always.
Pistol - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#29675) #
Great job Coach.

I got to play my senior year, got my degree

Something that I read prior to the draft surprised me. I don't know the exact number, but there's very few players in MLB with 4 year degrees. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of 20.
_Mylegacy - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#29676) #
Good interview.

When you think McGowan and Rosario are (were) considered to be quite a bit better than Dave...mid to late 05 I see: Halladay, Batista, Lily, Bush & the rounding into playing shape Rosario. Could be worse.
_A - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 02:18 PM EDT (#29677) #
Somebody hire that man! Kent, that was a great piece of writing.
Coach - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#29678) #
Thanks, everyone. I did have some help; Robert Dudek always comes up with excellent questions and took the photo. Credit him with another assist.

Kevin, I'm sure Dave is a fascinating dinner guest. Based on our twenty minute conversation, he is an admirable young man. Definitely bright and articulate, he's almost cocky on the mound, yet humble off the field -- it really was a pleasure to meet him.
_Jacko - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 03:00 PM EDT (#29679) #
Does anyone know what Bush got for a signing bonus?
_MatO - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#29680) #
According to Baseball America Bush got $450,000.
_Kevin Pataky - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 03:10 PM EDT (#29681) #
And then he bought that black Porsche he drives! ;-)
_Ryan Lind - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 05:15 PM EDT (#29682) #
That was an excellent read, Coach.

I like David Bush a lot.
_Wayne H. - Wednesday, July 28 2004 @ 10:50 PM EDT (#29683) #
These player interviews are a great way to get to know the players.

I am constantly impressed by the quality people the Jays have placed in their farm system; and in the case of David Bush, arriving in the majors.

The article writing quality was very strong. It flowed better than many player profiles written by the mainstream media. it was informative and briskly paced. I liked it.

Kudos to the writers.

David Bush is certainly looking like a keeper, and a bright hope for the team's future.
_BenW - Thursday, July 29 2004 @ 01:08 PM EDT (#29684) #
Great piece. I was a grad student at Wake Forest during Bush's 2000 and 2001 seasons and I hardly missed a game at home. The guy was automatic as a closer. One thing about the article- according to the NCAA 2004 record book Dave Bush doesn't own the NCAA appearance record. Wake's official stats list him at 40 appearances in 2002 and 112 for his career. The official single season record is 47 (Scott Wright, cal State Fullerton, 1984) and the career record is 150 (Tom Hickox, Stetson, 1988-91). Bush's 40 appearances were an NCAA high that year, but not a record. According to the Wake Forest baseball site he did finish his college career as Wake's all-time leader in saves (38) and the ACC's all-time leader in appearances (142).

On a side note, Bush had a life-threatening blood clot during the winter before his senior season but obviously had a complete recovery.
_DonnaH - Wednesday, August 11 2004 @ 08:50 AM EDT (#29685) #
I have known Dave Bush since he was about 12 years old and he is indeed a fine young man...I couldn't be happier for did a good job, Coach.
_Teresa - Friday, October 01 2004 @ 09:16 PM EDT (#29686) #
I found this article on Google while watching my high school classmate, Dave Bush, decimate the New York Yankees. The interview was fantastic, and you did a wonderful job of portraying Dave as the incredibly nice and sincere guy that he was back at 'Stoga. As a Yankees fan, I find myself sitting here rooting for Dave! Thanks for the article.
Meet Dave Bush | 22 comments | Create New Account
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