Scottsdale Scorpions left-hander Sammy Solis has the stuff: a lethal, high-velocity fastball and mesmerizing changeup. Since high school, he has featured a rarely seen knuckle-curve taught to him by his father Bob, who was a southpaw at Notre Dame.
But as the competition got better and he had trouble throwing the knuckle-curve for strikes, Solis, pitching for the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League, realized he would have to make a change to be successful at the next level.
"It has always been in the back of my mind," Solis said. "I knew without consistency from the knuckle-curve, I am not going anywhere. I knew it was the biggest barrier for me."
So pitching coach Paul Menhart worked with Solis on a new, 12-to-6 breaking curveball. The results have been just what he wanted.
"It is more of a traditional curve. I have been able to throw it for strikes," Solis said. "Guys don't see it all. I can throw it early in counts and it keeps the hitters on their toes. But really, I have confidence in this curve to bring it out in any count. I am going to continue to work on this traditional curve and bring it with me to spring training."
Solis has not completely abandoned the knuckle-curve and he is very thankful to his dad for teaching him the unusual pitch. But Solis needed a pitch that he could control more consistently.
"I tried it for 10 years," Solis said. "I still couldn't get it to do what I wanted it to do. Dad was a different pitcher, he didn't have the (velocity) I have, so he used it a lot more to get guys out. But I realized at this level, it wasn't going to work for me. I still bring it out from time to time, though. It still can be an effective pitch."
So now Solis has the high-velocity fastball, his changeup (which he considers his best pitch) and a traditional curve. Oh, and watch out for the knuckle-curve.
With all this extra experience, a healthy offseason and spring training, it makes sense - and is my prediction is - that Solis will be in Double-A Harrisburg in 2012.
First things first, though: His next Arizona start is Friday. I wonder how many traditional curves we will see.