Monday, April 04, 2011

Eitel On The Move In The Minors

My nephew Derek Eitel, a minor league pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, received some good news this past week. He has been elevated to a high A team, the Visalia (California) Rawhide. Derek started out with a rookie team, the Missoula Osprey, after he was drafted by the Diamondbacks last year, becoming Rose-Hulman's first athlete to be drafted to play professionally. He was later transferred to the South Bend Silverhawks, a low A team. In his first year, he was a relief pitcher. In his new position with the Rawhide, he will be in the starting rotation. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star's Craig Pierson interviewed him on his advancement:

Eitel has someone else’s job to start the season due to injury. After expecting to return to the South Bend Silverhawks to pitch out of the bullpen, the Diamondbacks have sent him to Visalia, Calif., to join the five-man starting rotation for the Visalia Rawhide. It’s a promotion from low-A to high-A ball.

“Originally I was put in the South Bend bullpen, I thought that was the plan. One of the starters in Visalia hurt his back a few days ago,” Eitel said Friday.

Eitel hopes to take advantage of the opportunity and impress Diamondbacks management.

“Hopefully that’s a long-term thing,” he said. “In reality, it could be a week or two weeks. You never know.”

Eitel thinks he’s set himself up for success with a solid offseason workout regimen, and then absorbing as much as he could during minor league spring camp.

Diamondbacks pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyre Sr. was a sinker-ball specialist during his 11-year career with the New York Yankees. Eitel relies heavily on the sinker as well, and his velocity is steadily between 89 and 92 miles per hour.

“I touched 93 this spring, which is up from where I was last year,” said Eitel, who was encouraged by Stottlemyre’s teachings.

“Don’t give hitters too much credit. Mel Stottlemyre has really talked to me a lot about that. Trust that sinker. It’s an out pitch. It’s not that nasty hook [some pitchers have], but it’s a pitch you don’t have to nip corners and be too fine.”

Eitel’s 2010 numbers show his sinker being effective. He allowed just three home runs in 64 1/3 innings, while walking 28 and striking out 51.

With an array of five pitches — a sinker, curveball, slider, split-finger and change-up — Eitel is best suited to be a starter, but if working from the bullpen gets him to the big leagues he can change his focus.

“I would focus more on the split as a reliever,” he said, meaning the change-up wouldn’t be as necessary in shorter shifts. “I’m preparing to be a starter with a backup plan to make it as a reliever.”

Eitel went 2-0 with a 1.80 earned-run average in four appearances out of the bullpen for South Bend after starting eight games for Missoula.
Derek is excited about his new pitching coach at the Rawhide, Doug Drabek, the 1990 Cy Young winner in the National League for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I'm really happy for his advancement, although it will be more of a challenge to get to see him play out in California than South Bend. Visalia is located in the San Joaquin Valley between San Francisco and LA. At 23, Derek will have to continue an upward progression in fairly short order to realize his dream of playing in the majors. So far he's right on track.


varangianguard said...

Wish your nephew all the luck in his quest for a major league slot!

Cato said...

Isn't it great to see how the free market generates and develops new talent? This system is contrasted with the NFL and NBA which get free minor leagues paid for by the players, in the form of free labor, and by taxpayers through subsidizing public universities, further by having these tax dollars paid by the schools to the NCAA.

College players need to be paid.

Pete Boggs said...

This is good stuff! Rose grads tend to be pretty sharp people.

Chris said...

Congrats to him. My wife and I worked for the Rawhide for the past couple of years. Great people there. She now works for the Bakersfield team and the first games are against the Rawhide.

interestedparty said...

It is always good to see someone pursuing a dream. Best wishes to all who do. My cousin was a major league player of some repute "back in the day", after a long stint in the minors. Things have changed a lot since then, some for the better, some not, in both systems. Here's to finding success in life, both on and off the field!