Tyler is becoming pitching ace of Elizabethton staff

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   Armed with a 90-plus mile-per-hour heater and a sharp-breaking slider, 6-5, 225-pound Scott Tyler has been an intimidating hurler for Appalachian League hitters to face.
   Tyler, who was Minnesota's second round pick in 2001-- out of Downingtown (Pa.) High School -- has been improving his game by leaps and bounds in 2002, and lists Bo Jackson as a big influence in his early life.
   "All through my Little League, middle school and high school years I always wore number 34 because it was Bo's number," Tyler said. "When I was in Little League I wrote a letter to him, and he actually wrote me back. That was a big thrill for me. To me, he was an ultimate athlete, he could do it all."
   Tyler, whose father Toby was an All-American basketball player at Cheney State University and was drafted to the American Basketball Association, says it, "Broke my dad's heart when I chose baseball, but he has always been behind me and supported me.
   "I played baseball and basketball in high school until my senior season, when I decided to concentrate on baseball. My dad has come to several games here (in Elizabethton) and when I was growing up he was always there to play catch or play hoops."
   In June, when the Twins first arrived in town, pitching coach Jim Shellenback had high praise for Tyler, saying: "Here's a kid that can throw 90 mph heat, and he's very accepting of coaching. I think if he reaches his potential there's no telling how far he could go. That's why he's here, to see if we can help him tap that potential."
   Tyler opened the season on the hill for 'Betsy in Johnson City and worked a respectable five innings, and after a rough second outing Tyler has consistently improved.
   "At first I didn't rely on my best stuff," said Tyler in describing a few of his early outings. "Then in this last game I decided to just go after the hitters and be as aggressive as I could be."
   Relying on his high-rising fastball has enabled Tyler to sort out the best situations to work in his improving slider or curveball, just so the hitters can't sit on the heater.
   "That's a part of my game that I still have to work out," Tyler said. "But I think I'm making progress toward my goal of reducing my walks and becoming more consistent."
   Tyler (4-1, 3.75) has won his last three decisions and on Sunday hurled seven strong frames against the Danville Braves but wasn't involved in the decision as 'Betsy rallied late for the win.
   "It's been a learning experience every day here," Tyler said. "All three of the coaches here have been through it all. They have been there and know what it's like in the minor leagues. With Shelly, he has a world of knowledge as a pitching coach, and I think he can make me a better pitcher."
   In his last three starts Tyler has shown what he has learned, throwing 17 innings and surrendering just four earned runs over that period -- including shutting out the hot-hitting Kingsport Mets for six innings on July 11.
   That stretch of solid hurling translates to a 2.11 earned-run average over that stretch of games, and makes Tyler one of the hottest pitchers in the Appy League.
   Tyler currently ranks second in the league, with 38 strikeouts to his credit (not counting Sunday's game in Danville), but youth has its disadvantages as well as Tyler has also walked 23 hitters.
   For Tyler, the road hasn't always been a smooth one, especially as a high school freshman when Tyler had what he called: "A great freshman season. I expected to dominate from there, but I ran into some elbow problems with tendonitis. My AAU coach Mike Manning pulled me aside and told me that I had what it takes physically, I had to grow up mentally."
   From there Tyler took off to where he is today, and he remains close to his high school coaches Brian Stackhouse and pitching coach Mike Torrance. They call each other on the phone often to keep in touch.
   "We talk on the phone all the time," Tyler said. "They were great coaches for me, and we have stayed friends. I'm still very close to them."