EUGENE, Ore. — After Dalton Geekie was released by the Atlanta Braves in spring training, his best offer to keep pitching came from the Lake Erie Crushers, and independent-league team on the outskirts of Cleveland.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander needed just two innings in the Frontier League to impress the Chicago Cubs, who signed Geekie last month.
“My coach, Cam Roth, said to come show my stuff and he would make sure there were people there to watch me,” Geekie said. “He said, ‘If you do your thing, it’s all on you.’ Then, one day, he said there was a scout coming to watch, so I should be ready to pitch, and it happened to work out for me.”
Geekie earned the save in both of his appearances in the independent league while striking out three without allowing a hit in two innings.
“I was throwing strikes and throwing hard, so the Cubs said they would give me a shot and see what happens,” he said.
Geekie spent a couple of weeks at extended spring training in Mesa, Arizona, before starting the Northwest League season in Eugene. He pitched in an affiliated game for the first time in nearly two years when he debuted for the Emeralds on June 15 by tossing two scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over Vancouver.
He has still yet to be scored upon, having allowed just five hits and two walks over seven innings and five appearances with Eugene.
Geekie said he sees this season as a restart with the Cubs after pitching two seasons in the Atlanta organization before missing all of last year following Tommy John surgery.
Geekie grew up in Powder Springs and went to McEachern High School at the same time as Oregon running back Taj Griffin and his brother, Ty. Drafted in the 22nd round in 2015 after his sophomore season at Georgia Highlands College, Geekie turned down a scholarship to Columbus State and signed with the Braves.
He went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA with three Class A teams that summer. In 2016, Geekie was 2-4 with a 5.16 ERA at long-season Class A Rome before having surgery in August.
Going through rehab with former major leaguer Josh Collmenter, current Atlanta reliever Dan Winkler and Braves prospect Kyle Kinman was beneficial to Geekie, who spent most of his college career as a position player.
“That was something I needed,” he said. “I was drafted as a pitcher, and they threw me into the fire, and I had to figure it out. So I picked their brains and that process helped me with what I can do today. The (physical therapy) staff with Atlanta was amazing. They are a big part of the reason why I’m coming back and still able to pitch.”
Atlanta released Geekie on March 18, and he signed with Lake Erie the following month.
“I tried to get on with a couple teams right after I was released, but coming off Tommy John is hard because nobody knows if you are truly healthy or not,” he said.
Adding to Geekie’s difficulty in attracting major league teams was that not many scouts had seen Geekie pitch after he played mostly first base and outfield in junior college.
“I obviously had a live arm and threw hard from the outfield,” he said. “They saw my potential and said, ‘Hey, let’s turn this guy into a pitcher.’”