While Somerset fell to Portland 2-1 on Wednesday night, there was certainly a huge silver lining to be found in the strong outing turned in from right-hander Sean Boyle after a rocky outing his last turn through the rotation.
The Sea Dogs were able to scrape together an unearned run in the second inning against Boyle on Wednesday, but after that the 25-year old Dallas Baptist-product retired 12 of the next 13 batters that he faced. In all, Boyle allowed just three hits and fanned a season-high seven batters over five strong innings of work.
In his previous start last Thursday on the road in Hartford, the Yard Goats tagged Boyle for seven earned runs on eight hits, including three homers, in just 3.1 innings of work. Rather than allowing that outing to snowball, Boyle went back to the proverbial drawing board in between starts to identify what went wrong and worked on a game plan to fix it.
“The last outing for me was far from a quality one,” admitted Boyle. “I looked back and said ‘what the heck went wrong’ and saw the ball was up and I wasn’t using my other pitches. My go-to pitch is my slider and last outing it wasn’t there. I was elevating with everything else, so my focus was really knowing that my slider will be there but use of the other things. Tonight I thought that I was able to get back into counts using those other pitches and keep them off the slider and the two-seam.”
Boyle added, “It’s tough sometimes because you can get the comments that it was just a bad one and you will be fine. There’s truth in that, but you also have to make sure that the bad one doesn’t happen again. In between those starts video is very helpful and the coaching staff is always very helpful. It was just very clear that too many fastballs from me, the location of those pitches were bad and I need to be down in the zone; too many fastballs and not enough sliders.”
The slider, after all, is what Boyle and the Yankees player development staff would categorize as the strongest weapon among the offerings in his repertoire.
“Being able to pitch backwards with it or if I am behind, get back into the count with it,” Boyle explained. “That is something that I need to do; I don’t throw slow, but I’m not up there blowing 95 or 100 MPH, so I have to pitch. Bread and butter is the slider.”
‘When he is at his best he is mixing his pitches really well,” said Patriots manager Dan Fiorito. “He’s got so many different pitches that he is able to command; I think for him, just attacking with everything is big. When his stuff is on, his slider and everything else, is nasty.”
The Somerset pitching staff has posted a cumulative 2.92 ERA, good for second best in the Eastern League, and have fanned the most batters in the league (195 in 151.1 IP) in the early going of this season. The starting rotation is headlined by the likes of Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk, but Boyle admits that each member of the backend finds motivation in putting zeros up on the scoreboard for the Patriots.
“Everybody is smiling when you are putting zeros up,” said Boyle. “It’s contagious, yes, but you have to make sure that you stay in yourself,” said Boyle. “Like Medina and Waldichuk, they throw hard; they’re different pitchers. Being able to pull for the same thing but staying within your strengths can be challenging sometimes.”
The Yankees drafted Boyle with a 25th round pick back in 2018. For a long stretch now, it feels like he has seemed fly under the radar in the system, but in his 56 career appearances now spanning over 153 innings of action, the Selden, NY-native has posted a career 2.76 ERA with 176 punchouts and a mere .211 batting average against. Damn good numbers in an extended sample size.
After the cancelled 2020 campaign, Boyle pitched at all four full-season affiliates in 2021 and was part of not one, but two no-hitters along the way. As the degree of difficulty increased with each promotion, Boyle only seemed to get stronger . Of the 27 appearances that he made last season, 10 of those outings came between Double and Triple-A where he combined to post a 1.20 ERA.
“The challenging thing is that I always want to do better,” said Boyle. “But, if something worked last year, don’t try to make it too much better, the goal now is to be consistent and repeat it. Obviously we’re going to try and be better where we can, but don’t try to overdue it for whatever reason.”
“I know in order to keep climbing the ladder, consistency will be my separator,” said Boyle. “Movement, location – do it each time that I take the ball.”