Returning to the Nat after two devastating losses in Everett, the C’s, realistically, need to run the table against the Eugene Emeralds and hope the Gretzky led Boise Hawks do them a favour when they host the Aquasox for five. I’m not overly confident, but hey, stranger things have happened. Kinda like these Eugene uniforms, tie die?? Seriously?
After a fantastic performance from Eric Brown on Monday got the C’s off to a flying start in Washington, beating the ‘Sox 13-0, the wheels fell off for the pitching staff over the next couple of nights. Tuesday saw the piggy-backing duo of Scott Silverstein and Matt Dermody get lit up, with the only bright spot being an excellent C’s debut from Alonzo Gonzalez. On Wednesday the roles were reversed as starter Kyle Anderson gave the C’s a chance. Relievers Garrett Pickens and Matthew Johnson, however, did not.
The opener of the five game set with Eugene saw 2011 2nd rounder and Northwest League ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 leader Jeremy Gabryszwski take the hill in an effort to get the Canadians back on track.
I’m going to admit something here. When I wrote my piece a couple of weeks ago extolling the virtues of Gabryszwski and how he may be in line for a promotion, I was basing my argument off of stats and secondary observations. I hadn’t actually seen him pitch yet. Thursday I did nothing but watch him, so let’s dedicate this post to JG.
I spoke to pitching coach Jim Czajkowski on Sunday about the big Texan. He attributed JG’s success thus far to ‘his ability to throw all four of his pitches for strikes, although there is very little separation between the curve and slider, so is really only three pitches.’ He also said that Jeremy was one of ten minor league pitchers in the Jays org. to trial the Steve Delabar weighted ball program during extended spring training. A program he is still on. Based on the results of the initial control group, Jays management will look to ramp it up and get sixty of their hundred odd pitchers on it next season.
I think Jim was being polite with his choice of words, but he did mention that ‘despite being twenty, JG still has a bit of puppy fat he needs to get rid of.’ So, along with being on the weighted ball program they have him on a fairly rigorous fitness regime. Sitting at 88/89 with his fastball, he’s ‘just below the major league average’ so if need be he could still be successful, but there is hope that the hard work being put in will add a few more mph to his heater.
Talking to Jeremy after the game, he feels the program is already helping with his velocity. Last year, in the Appalachian league, he reckoned he was sitting in the mid-80s with his fastball, so believes the improvements are already there to see. A secondary benefit is the ability to maintain his stuff through his allotted pitch limit (usually in the 75 range). Something he struggled with last year.
I asked Gabryszwski what the main difference was between the weighted ball program and his usual work. He was amazed at how loose he both gets before and remains after starts. He hardly has to stretch before starts now.
Thursday saw him throw seventy-eight pitches through five and two thirds innings. He mainly worked off of his fastball, throwing fifty-four of them, which, as usual, sat in the 88 mph range. He did ramp it up to 90/91 occasionally, but seemed to be over-throwing, and rarely did he throw the quicker ones for a strike.
He mixed in fourteen change ups which sat in the low 80s. JG uses a circle grip which tends to tail down and in to right-handers. He didn’t throw a breaking ball until the third, eventually spinning ten of them. I had seven slower curves which he throws in the 77/78 range, usually for a strike, and three hard sliders which sit mid-80s. On the night, he tended to use the slider as a ‘dirt’ or waste pitch. That’s not necessarily a pattern, his curveball ‘has more of a deeper 12-6 break, while the slider is tighter, which he can move down and in to lefties and away from right-handers.’
Having come into the night leading the league with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.79 ERA both Jim and Jeremy agreed it was not his best outing (given his usual standards) as he allowed eight base-runners, on seven hits and a walk, with two earned runs. Czajkowski was disappointed with a few at bats where Gabryswski missed his spots, specifically the two singles given up to Emeralds DH Fernando Perez. Both times he had him 0 and 2 but left the ‘out’ pitch over the plate. Although both were hit hard, there was an element of hard luck involved, as the first line drive went right through Jordan Leyland, and the second should have resulted in an out at the plate. Melvin Garcia came up throwing and fired a pea to catcher Mike Reeves who dropped the ball, despite it beating the runner Henry Charles by two steps.
Both agreed that if this was one of his poorer starts, they couldn’t really be all that disappointed.
Notes from the Press Box:
The other nine minor leaguers on the weighted ball program are: Colton Turner (Vancouver), Markus Brisker (released), Adaric Kelly (Bluefield), Tom Robson (Bluefield), Mark Biggs (Bluefield), Deivy Estrada (Bluefield), and Shane Dawson (Bluefield). For those mathematicians out there, yes, that’s only eight, but neither Jim nor Jeremy could remember the other two, so 80% ain’t bad.
There was a healthy debate in the press box prior to the game as to whether Eugene’s uniforms are actually worse than Boise’s monstrosities. The result was no, but was a close run decision. The Emeralds are rocking lime green tie died tops. Speaking to their radio play by play man, Alex Stimson described it thus (with a bit of artistic license from myself): The Ems ops manager decided that our simple, plain, mlb-style uniforms weren’t flashy enough, so we needed to move towards beer league slow pitch tops.
Like most of the C’s, Gabryswski is pretty happy to be playing in front of 5,000 fans a night. I was a bit naive thinking Bluefield drew well, but was corrected. Apparently 300 is a good night for them. How depressing.
Boise did beat Everett, so 2 games down with 4 to go. As mentioned, stranger things have happened.