Left-hander Tim Cate enjoyed spring training but is also excited and ready to begin the regular season. Cate is ranked the Nationals No. 8 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline heading into 2019.
“I’m excited,” Cate said last week from West Palm Beach, Fla. “Spring training has been a ball but I’m excited to actually start playing real games and be in a squad. It feels like you don’t know where you’re at yet just because there are so many players in spring training. But I’m definitely ready to get the season started.”
The coaching staff has ramped him up from three to four to five innings in their normal pitch progression. Cate said they focused on building his mechanics from the bottom up to maintain his consistency and power for the long season.
“When I first got here we went over mechanics, just to tweak a little bit, a few things,” Cate said. “It was more my lower half, just staying closed longer. I think I was leaking a little bit with my front leg where I wouldn’t turn as fast and I wouldn’t stay closed as long. But it was a real simple fix and it feels a little bit better after having (made that adjustment) in my location and kind of the sharpness of my fastball. And (my) breaking ball has been better since (the adjustment).”
Cate said there wasn’t any major changes necessary to get going, he just needed reps to build back his arm after a long respite.
“I think it was just being in the offseason for so long. I think in the offseason I try and keep everything consistent where I left off but a part of that too is your just trying to get your arm back in shape after taking off three months.”
Cate, 21, focused and put “100 percent dedication” into baseball growing up. He had to have Tommy John surgery when he was 16 years old. Does he feel stronger now?
“That’s a difficult question to answer because I had it when I was 16. I feel like my body is a lot stronger and I’ve matured since then.”
And yes, Cate is ambidextrous. But he wont be one of those lefty-righty specialists in pro baseball.
“I can throw a baseball pretty far with my right hand but it’s more of a show trick,” he said.
Cate also felt his time playing baseball at UConn was extremely beneficial for him as he prepared for a baseball career.
“I credit the whole staff for my development not only as a player but as a person,” Cate said. “When you go to college you kind of figure out who you are as a person and the coaches help you throughout the whole process. Just socially maturing, physically maturing, just growing in general. It was definitely a good experience for me to go through all of that with great coaches and great players.
“College is a good route. But I’m sure there are high school guys that figured it out on the way too. I think it goes both ways.”
He has a lethal curveball that makes a 12-to-6 drop that hitters cannot get a piece of very often. The mechanics of the curveball came naturally to Cate as he worked on it from little league to college. It’s known as a “hammer curveball.”
“It’s not something I had to put too much thought into,” Cate said. “I started when I was really young, probably like 10 years old. I always had a high arm slot so it always kind of worked in my favor being 12-6 (drop). And as the years go by (I) really tried to harness the break on it, being able to locate it wherever I wanted any given time. So, it’s definitely the pitch I feel most comfortable throwing to get outs. I have a lot of confidence in that pitch.”
The Manchester, Conn. native made a total of 12 starts last season after arriving as a second round 2018 selection. Now he will embark on a full season playing pro baseball with no restrictions. Coming up later in Part II we will focus on other pitches Cate is honing to perfect.