I have some updates on the pitching staff at Double-A Harrisburg, with a focus on the bullpen. The Senators swept a doubleheader from Altoona on Wednesday, once again thanks to the pitchers keeping the score down, 5-3 and 3-2.
A lot of talk has surrounded the emergence of former Yankees prospect right-hander Christian Garcia, who has fought back from a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He recorded his sixth save of the season in game one.
Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart said Garcia has learned to try to not over throw and that has helped his pitching and overall performance.
“He is toning back the effort,” Menhart said. “Garcia is starting to feel what he is supposed to be doing out on the mound for him. He is getting out there he is not trying to overdo it, for the most part. When he does, he is starting to realize it and he backs off. The ball comes out better.”
Right-hander Hector Nelo was a top closer for high Single-A Potomac last season, and has made a nice transition to Harrisburg this season. Nelo is 1-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, striking out 24 and walking eight.
Menhart said the difference from last season is evident in the way Nelo approaches each hitter.
“Hector has grown up from last year where I think he was trying to just to blow balls by guys,” Menhart said. “He is actually throwing the ball for quality strikes, the fastball especially. He is throwing very hard, mid-to-upper 90’s mph.
“But now we got command and what he has done best is he has developed a breaking ball which gets the guys off that fastball. So, now he has become a nice, viable option at the tail end of ball games at any level.”
Interesting to hear Menhart say “next level”, similar to Patrick Lehman, Nelo’s stuff is good enough for Triple-A and maybe even beyond right now.
Making a big splash this season has been right-hander Erik Davis. Davis went 1 1/3 innings in the game two win Wednesday, lowering his ERA to 2.17 by allowing just a hit and no runs.
Menhart said Davis has really taken to the move from starter to reliever and now seems much more in control of each outing, rather than worrying about getting 21 guys out at once.
“Eric Davis is a surprise story of thus far this year, moving him out of the starting rotation to the bullpen,” Menhart said. “He has developed a new attitude out on the mound: ‘let’s get after it, this is me, I am going to throw this fastball and I am going to try to get you out with my off speed pitches but I can still get you out with my fastball’.
“This (way of thinking), as opposed to the starting role where he seemed to be trying to feel his way around the game. He has come out firing on all cylinders. I am been very, very pleased with him. He is the turnaround story thus far.”
So watch how Garcia, Nelo and Davis do this next month. I have not forgotten about the rest of the guys on this team, they are lighting it up, too. Check back here for updates on the rest of the pitching staff as they progress for a second time through the Eastern league standings.
Update: Outfielder Destin Hood was given both games of the doubleheader off, not because of injury, but instead the Alabama star is not feeling well. A bug has been going around the team. Hood took the day off to rest.