Harrisburg Senators pitcher Jeff Mandel is looking to follow up an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League with a step up to Double-A this season and the results are starting to show even this early in the season.
Mandel bounced back from a tough first outing for a spectacular second start April 13th at Bowie. Jeff pitched 5 and 1/3rd innings, allowing 3 hits, no earned runs, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. He dropped his ERA from 8.31 to 3.72 in one start.
Mandel says pitching coach Randy Tomlin knows how to improve a talented bunch of hurlers.
"Randy Tomlin is a guy who has been in the big leagues and has pitched with and agains the best guys. He knows what works. He uses catch phrases that help each pitcher understand what he wants them to do.
One thing he does really well is he gives you space when you are pitching well. He will pinpoint when he sees something you need to work on. He holds us all to a higher standard."
Mandel continues to work on his sinker pitch and it is making life difficult for hitters.
"Ever since spring training I have been working on my sinker ball. Last time out I got some of the plate and got hit around a little bit.
So I have been working on location and strike one. Once you gget that first pitch over for strike one you can nibble and get the batter to chase things he normally wouldn't go for. That really opens things up."
Jeff says he works on three main pitches each game: his sinker, change up and a slider.
"I can work them to lefties and righties, mix in the off speed. I am working on locating my 4 seam fastball. It is just a harder sinker. I throw outside to righties and inside to lefties. I throw as many as I can. I am working on adjusting to Double-A. It has been going very well. I am getting more and more comfortable.
Last year in High-A the hitters offer you a bigger zone to work with. You can get away with sinker balls that are balls. Guys swing at them.
Now in my third year the sinker is becoming my dominant pitch. I am learning how to locate it a lot better. My stamina is building up."
Have you kept in touch with your pitching coach from the Arizona Fall League and Potomac last season?
"Paul Menhart has always been great. I will call him from time to time to bounce ideas off oof him. He was a sinker ball guy too. I can ask him a stupid question like how do you throw it on windy days when it doesn't seem to locate as well. He tells me to own the situation. Look at each hitter and challenge them to 'try and hit this.' You need to have a swagger out there and trick the hitter."
Tomlin told me all of you guys can pitch in the majors. Can you talk about the talent you guys have in Harrisburg on the mound?
"We have talent here in Harrisburg. I think the way they have stacked our pitching shows me they want to create a winning mindset. We have six or seven guys who can start so this gives us so many options.
Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen will soon be in the big leagues.
The new ball park here in Harrisburg is amazing. We have big crowds who know baseball. They cheer us when we need them to and they boo the other team at the right times. Our fans are so excited about baseball."
Everyone has been talking about your teammate Stephen Strasburg, and foor good reason. What have you seen from Stephen so far?
"With a guy like him and the amount of money he signed for, opponents come in not wanting to like him. But you meet him and see how hard he works, and he is so quiet.
While I was pitching with him in the Fall league he got hit up hard in one game. Afterwards I talked to him and he said, 'it will never happen again.'
Stephen said he will work harder the next time to prepare and be ready. He has a great maturity for his age. He is basically a superstar.
Grown men in backpacks chase him around for autographs. He has to deal with so much. It is tough.
People wait for him at the hotel or as he gets out of his car at the park. People get upset if they perceive he is in a bad mood. I can't say enough about how well he handles all of it. Sometimes its like 'is this really Stephen Strasburg?' "