TRENTON, NJ – Prior to the 2016 season – even after Tommy John Surgery in 2014 – left-hander Dietrich Enns found himself on something of a pitching merry-go-round.
He’s gone from starter to reliever to starter, partially due to his TJ detour, but the 24-year-old native of Frankfort, Ill., whom the Yankees drafted in the 19th round in 2012 from Central Michigan University, now knows where he slots in the Yankees organization.
“It’s different for every guy,” said Enns, who is 2-0, 0.00 in four starts with the Double-A Trenton Thunder so far in 2016. “They told me in Spring Training I would be a starter, so that is what I am. I’ve done both, but I will do what they what me to do. I’m a starter.”
Thunder first-year manager Bobby Mitchell, who came to the Yankees from the Atlanta system, has seen some of the switches from the bullpen to starter, or vice-versa, since his arrival.
“We are putting the pitchers in the roles in which we feel they will be most effective at the big-league level,” said Mitchell.
So, far, placing Enns in the Thunder rotation has been a superb move. Enns, confident and focused two years after TJ, has been one of the most impressive starters in the Eastern League in the early going, having thrown 16.2 scoreless innings with only seven hits allowed and 17 strikeouts.
Pitching against the Akron RubberDucks, Cleveland’s Class-AA farm team loaded with top prospects Friday night in what was a 2-0 Trenton win, he was excellent, throwing eight scoreless innings, striking out 11 and walking just three. He had the Ducks hitters off-balance all evening.
“I was trying to get guys out of the box as soon as I could,” said Enns. “I had good fastball command and was mixing my changeup and slider in well. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for strikeouts, just looking to work quickly to get ahead of guys and get them in position to get them out, with a fly or however. I enjoy pitching to contact.”
Enns has the arsenal to do just that, with a four-seam fastball that sits between 92 and 94, a top-drawer changeup and a slider that lefties, especially, have issues handling. No pitch was in the middle of the plate. That combination kept a solid-hitting lineup baffled Friday night.
Mitchell enjoyed watching it all from the dugout.
“Dietrich was right where he wanted to be with his pitches,” said Mitchell. “When you are not walking many (only Cleveland No. 1 prospect Bradley Zimmer worked walks) and are around the zone, you get marginal swings.
“He had their guys reaching all night.”
Enns has already grasped the Double-A Eastern League is a totally different environment from the lower levels, with a whole new set of challenges.
“The guys here are better hitters, better disciplined,” he said. “You make a mistake over the plate and they will hurt you. Keeping the ball down, off the plate is a must. Guys have more of an idea here. You have to be aware, understand the game.”
Enns is also learning about pitching in patterns and reading swings, which is all of the maturation process. He has definite goals to add to his successful 2016 start.
“I need my fastball command to get better,” he said. “When I get two strikes on hitters, I want to make sure I put them away.”
So far that has been the case. Both scouts and Akron skipper Dave Wallace were also impressed with Enns. Looking for a Yankees prospect with the possibility of a breakout season? He’s certainly a candidate.
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