It’s straightforward for Thomas Pannone to image himself within the large leagues, simply as it’s straightforward to grasp why the Buffalo Bisons starter can see it.
“That’s what everybody on this area needs, that’s what everybody that performs this sport needs, is to get there,” Pannone mentioned final week.
The 24-year-old left-hander got here into his first full season as a part of the Blue Jays group ranked because the 26th-best prospect, in accordance with MLB Pipeline. After being traded to Toronto as a part of a package deal deal that noticed reliever Joe Smith go to the Cleveland Indians final July, Pannone got here into this yr anticipating to be one in all Buffalo’s 5 starters and to compete with Ryan Borucki as the primary to be referred to as up in occasion of an damage to the Jays rotation.
Quick ahead six months and Borucki has earned his spot on Toronto’s employees after accidents. Pannone, alternatively, solely has six begins beneath his belt with the Bisons; he was suspended for 80 video games in mid-March after testing constructive for a performance-enhancing substance, dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.
An archaic anabolic steroid that has resurfaced within the doping phrase in recent times, DHCMT, as it’s extra generally identified, had beforehand been linked to the Jays when former first baseman Chris Colabello examined constructive for the substance in 2016.
Like Colabello, Pannone to this present day denies ever taking the performance-enhancing drug. In an announcement launched after the suspension was introduced, Pannone mentioned a name from the Main League Baseball Gamers Affiliation notifying him that the substance was present in his urine pattern was “probably the most stunning cellphone name of his life.” He mentioned he underwent a three-hour polygraph take a look at administered by a former FBI agent, with the outcomes exhibiting he was truthful. He says he handed “with one of many highest scores potential.”
However nonetheless, a suspension is a suspension, and Pannone needed to rejig his timeline in the case of a major-league name up.
“Now that I’m one step away … I’ve to remain targeted on what I’m doing right here proper now,” Pannone mentioned. “I felt like I used to be attempting to catch up, and I believe nonetheless they need me to get some outings beneath my belt and see the place I’m at. I’m simply taking it daily and attempting to enhance on what I would like to enhance on after which hopefully, ultimately, sooner or later get my identify referred to as.”
The native of Cranston, R.I., had hoped to come back into this season and construct off final yr, when he went 9-Three with a 2.36 ERA in 1142/Three innings at excessive Class-A and Double-A. He felt he had developed a three-pitch combine, was getting forward of hitters and wasn’t strolling many guys in 2017.
Even after information of the suspension, Pannone hoped to profit from his time away from the sport. He stayed constructive and upbeat for the month of April earlier than it turned powerful to remain motivated.
“I checked out it daily as, ‘OK, I’m going to go right here, I’m going to work on this at this time. I’m going to work on this at this time.’” he mentioned. “After which impulsively I hit a wall like, ‘What am I doing? Why is that this occurring to me?’ ”
Pannone ultimately made his first rehab begin in late June and took his spot in Buffalo’s rotation in early July. He’s 0-Three with a 4.91 ERA in six begins there, excessive for a man who has not completed a yr within the minors with an ERA over 4.02 — it’s normally beneath 3.20 — within the final 4 seasons. However he has three high quality begins for the Bisons and is happy that he has gone at the very least six innings in 4 of his six outings.
“The most important factor is I’m a beginning pitcher, I wish to get as deep into the sport as I presumably can and I’ve completed an ideal job of that this yr up to now,” he mentioned.
Pannone has tried to embed in his thoughts that the previous is the previous. However that isn’t to say he hasn’t realized from the suspension.
“I simply needed to preserve my thoughts constructive and assume: ‘It is a powerful time proper now however powerful occasions don’t final and hard individuals do.’ ”