By SHELDON OCKER
Akron Beacon journal
Zach McAllister has been swallowed up inside a bubble of silence.
Nobody talks about his status as a member of the Indians’ pitching staff. His performances in exhibition games seemingly are lightly noted or ignored by everyone except pitching coach Mickey Callaway and manager Terry Francona.
There appears to be no curiosity about McAllister. How is he getting along in camp? What’s he working on in the bullpen? Is he throwing enough strikes? How’s the old release point? Where does he get a haircut in Goodyear? None of these questions arise.
Nothing about McAllister seems to register among the media. He wouldn’t be noticed at all if he didn’t stand 6-foot-6, a characteristic noted by Francona when he said, “When McAllister lets go of the ball, it’s like he’s right on top of you. That’s not a comfortable feeling.”
All the disinterest surrounding McAllister is a good thing. For him. Long ago, general manager Chris Antonetti announced that McAllister would begin the season in the rotation. Since then, questions have ceased, the major one having been answered.
“Every year I’ve come into spring training it’s been a different situation,” McAllister said. “It’s a nice feeling to have people say that you’re kind of penciled in. But I don’t want to take anything for granted. I want to earn my spot.”
McAllister drew attention to himself Saturday by putting together his best outing of the spring in a 9-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Pitching four innings after David Huff started the game, McAllister did not allow a run, giving up three hits, no walks and striking out three.
“I thought Zach looked really good,” Francona said. “He pounded the strike zone, and he elevated some pitches when he needed to get swing-and-misses.”
McAllister was one of the New York Yankees’ better pitching prospects when he was traded to the Indians in August 2010. However, when he arrived in the big leagues, nobody made much of a fuss, as McAllister posted an 0-1 record and 6.11 ERA.
The improvement of McAllister from his four-start major-league debut in 2011 was dramatic. His progress manifested itself in fewer walks (2.72 walks per nine innings) in 2012, and he struck out 7.9 batters per nine innings.