The mantra the Yankees – and really any club – teach to pitchers is a simple one. Follow these, and you will find success at most levels:
Work quickly … Trust your stuff … Throw strikes.
The Yankees, also like any club, are tantalized by the guys who throw cheese – the pitcher who can hit 95 mph or above. Yet, there is a place in the system for two pitchers, both right-handers, who have been effective with location rather than velocity.
“If you throw strikes and hit your spots, you will usually be successful,” said 2015 Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado. “I enjoyed watching both Brady Lail and Eric Ruth use their stuff to their best this season.”
Lail, who was 10-6, 2.91 in 28 appearances (27 starts) among Class-A Advanced Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Ruth, who put together a 10-6, 3,38 mark among Tampa, Trenton and Scranton, gave opposing hitters a lot of headaches by hitting their spots.
Whether either ever pitches for the Yankees remains to be seen, but both have shown to be effective in the upper minors. Many started following Lail after he took a line drive to the head in a game at Portland last May 12, and bounced back quickly. Ruth, a Bucks County native who pitched within 45 minutes of home in Trenton, flew pretty much under the radar.
“Hey, I don’t throw fastballs at 98,” Ruth said with a chuckle, “but I know I can hit my spots. That’s my game, and it works.”
Both, who rely on keeping the ball down, had good strikeout-to-walk ratios, with Lail notching an 85-43 ratio and Ruth a 98-46 comparison. Neither walk many opposing batters. Both are durable. Lail threw 141 innings and Ruth 146.1.
“I’ll go as far as I can in any start,” said Lail. “No problems with innings for me.
Ruth is on the same page.
“I always try to get into the late innings,” said Ruth. “As long as I can hit my spots.”
Trenton did receive two fireballers late in the year in righties Rookie Davis and Cale Coshow, each throwing 33.1 innings at the Double-A level. Lail and Ruth are likely to start at Scranton in 2016 – as each has experience at that level – while Coshow and Davis probably will anchor Trenton’s rotation at the start of the season.
Pitchers having the makeup of Lail and Ruth often have a shorter rope in the minors than fireballers and have to prove themselves at any level. For every such hurler who succeeds, someone will point to righty Jaron Long, who had a breakout 2014, but took a few steps back in 2015.
Such pitchers can’t reach back for the 96 mph heater to record a needed strikeout, but they can freeze a batter with a well-placed curve or sinker. They also seem to have little trouble, as Ruth and Lail mentioned, throwing a lot of innings on a consistent basis.
The key for each in 2016 will be controlling hitters in Triple-A. As a pitcher moves up a level, he faces hitters who are more experienced and can time them better. On the other hand, their different deliveries and sharp-breaking offerings often make hitters wish for fastballs.
Work quickly … Trust your stuff … Throw strikes. It makes sense.