WooSox Thomas Pannone Is Far From Done

"At the end of the day, I just want to pitch"

Thomas Pannone
PHOTO: Kelly O’Connor

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THOMAS PANNONE IS PITCHING FOR THE WOOSOX TONIGHT VS. JACKSONVILLE.

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Thomas Pannone is no stranger when it comes to betting on himself.

Call it confidence. Call it trust and the utmost belief in yourself. As Pannone sets sail on the 2022 season as a member of the Boston Red Sox organization, his personal compass remains pointed in the direction of the same set of guiding principles that had once proven key in arriving at an important conclusion concerning his baseball future.

What proved successful long before the lefty pitcher tossed his first professional inning still rings true today – an all-gas, no-brake philosophical approach.

Harking back to 2012, Pannone capped off his senior season at Bishop Hendricken with a state title where he was named series MVP. He was also selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 33rd round of that year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.

 

 

“To be honest, it was eye-opening to even be in that category to be drafted,” said Pannone, a Cranston native.

Hearing his name called by the Cubs supplied Pannone with some serious food for thought. He had signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at the University of Miami. The moment he set foot on that particular Division I campus, the clock would start on a three-year wait before he could re-enter the MLB Draft.

Advised to enroll at a junior college that would put him on the path to becoming eligible for the following year’s draft, Pannone pushed all his chips towards the middle of the table.

“I really wanted to get into pro ball,” he said. “My outlook changed the moment that thought crossed my mind.”

Thomas Pannone
PHOTO: Ashley Green

It’s not a gamble when you believe in yourself and your ability, Pannone kept saying to himself. His decision to forsake playing at Miami in favor of heading to College of Southern Nevada, a junior college, was calculated. More importantly, it was a move that was going to pay off.

“It ignited the flame in me that I needed to prove how good I was,” said Pannone.

 

 

When June 2013 rolled around, the best-laid plans carefully cultivated by Pannone were handsomely rewarded. From the 33rd round to the ninth round, Pannone jumped 743 spots in the draft. Not too shabby when it comes to tracking improvement over a 12-month period.

“I always had the confidence to venture out,” said Pannone while sitting at a table inside the home clubhouse at Polar Park this past Sunday morning.

 

 

Ten years removed from making a pivotal choice that put him on the fast track to becoming a pro baseball player, Pannone finds himself at an intriguing juncture. Opening the season as a member of the Worcester Red Sox starting rotation, he’s aiming at re-establishing his luster. This after struggling last season after not pitching competitively and getting designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020.

Before his career endured some speed bumps, Pannone broke through with the Blue Jays, totaling 49 appearances for the American League club between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. It’s that point in his life that he seeks to revisit with this fresh start with the Red Sox; his fourth organization since getting drafted by Cleveland.

“Being a kid from Rhode Island, being presented with an opportunity to play for the Red Sox, I couldn’t turn that down,” said Pannone. He signed a minor-league deal with Boston as the MLB lockout that delayed the original start date of spring training drew to a close.

 

Pannone can speak to the less glamorous side of the game. From the DFA news that ended his time with the Toronto organization, to posting a 7.07 ERA in 24 games (21 starts) in 2021 while pitching for Salt Lake – Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels – he’s been dealt a series of punches that came in the aftermath of making his big-league debut.

“At that moment, it was tough. I didn’t know what to do,” said Pannone, looking back at getting cut by Toronto.

For someone who has based his life around reaching baseball’s highest level, every emotional struggle and subsequent high point must be approached through the same even-keeled lens.

“Every day is different but you’ve got to come in with the same attitude and mentality,” said Pannone. “You can’t be, ‘I just pitched the best game of my life.’ You’ll get humbled really fast. Same thing with being down in the dumps. You can’t pout and walk around with your tail between your legs. You need to stay up and positive.”

“This game features many highs and many lows. You’ve got to handle them with a grain of salt.”

Thomas Pannone

After spending this past offseason training in Florida at Cressey Sports Performance, a facility that attracts Cy Young talent such as Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Pannone proclaimed he’s in a good spot mentally as it relates to his four-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, changeup, slider). He’ll make his season debut for the WooSox down in Jacksonville Wednesday night – the first step in banking on himself as the new guy with a new organization.

“At the end of the day, I just want to pitch. Whether it’s coming out of the bullpen and pitching three innings or late in the game, or giving them seven innings … I just love pitching,” he said. “You have to look at it only one way. I have an incredible opportunity ahead of me. I need to be proud of where I’m at and go out there every day and handle my business.”

Pannone is proud of what he’s accomplished to date, as he should be. In keeping with the confidence that has been part and parcel of his baseball existence for as long as he remembers, he threw down somewhat of a gauntlet before heading outdoors to throw a bullpen session at Polar Park.

“Looking back at it all, it’s amazing the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met and been able to play with. It’s something special that one day I’ll be able to look back on and tell a lot of stories,” he said, “but I plan on playing as long as I can. I’m proud of the resume I’ve built, but it’s far from done.”

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