Left-hander Sammy Solis has adapted well to the instructional league in Viera and is now ready to take on the challenge of the Arizona Fall League.
The Nationals' second round selection, 51st overall, grew up in Arizona and went to school in San Diego, so he is thrilled to get a chance to pitch in such a prestigious offseason league that is stocked with potential superstars of the future. Last year, wunderkinds Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg played in Arizona before dazzling in the majors in 2010.
The Nats coaching staff has been buzzing about Solis' makeup and pitching the first few weeks in Viera, and the 6'5" 228-pound southpaw has shown why he was taken so high in the first two rounds.
Solis features a 90-94 mile per hour four-seam fastball and two-seamer, a deceiving changeup (his best pitch), and a rarely seen knuckle curve.
"The knuckle curve is something that most people are not familiar with," Solis said. "My dad said he made it up in wiffle ball and threw it in college. He was a left-handed pitcher at Notre Dame. He taught it to me. I have thrown that my entire life. I like to mix it up with my upper torso. I have three solid pitches. I would like to fit another one in there but right now it is working out just fine."
Most guys are working on their changeups in camp, but Solis says he only has minor tinkering to do with that offering because it is his best overall pitch.
"The changeup is my out pitch. That is my best pitch. I am working on throwing the curveball for strikes, on fastball command, and changing speeds. I really have no problem throwing the changeup whenever I want."
Solis says he is enjoying playing baseball again after the draft in early June.
"It is really exciting just being out here and playing. I sat at home all summer and worked out, but it is not the same as being out on the field. Finally getting out here and getting my feet wet and getting to know the guys is really exciting and a lot of fun."
He says he thinks the Nationals were the perfect destination for him.
"I knew they struggled a bit in the past," Solis said. "But at the same time I knew they used the minor leagues a lot and they had fresh new guys in there. They treat their guys really well - (that) is the word on the street. I was excited to get here and figure all that out. It is true. I couldn't belong to a better organization than the Nationals."
A lot of people thought Solis would follow his dad to Notre Dame, but he felt the University of San Diego was the best fit for him coming out of high school.
"College was the greatest and worst time of my life," Solis said. "It was tough sitting out my sophomore year with a back injury, but it got me stronger. I am back 100 percent. Coach (Rich) Hill gave me a full ride scholarship so I couldn't ask for any better than that.
"It was the time of my life. I got to know a lot of good guys. We had 10 guys drafted off of last year's team. That just goes to show the quality of the coaching and the school. It was a great time and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Coming up in the next installment, Solis' thoughts on playing in the AFL, his duels with Stephen Strasburg in San Diego, and his take on facing pros in instructs in Viera this month.