Prospect Pitch: Eovaldi evolving

Dodgers hurler discusses coach's advice, four offerings

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | May 16, 2012 6:38 AM ET

Good is good enough.

These are the words that pervade Nathan Eovaldi's mind when he's circling the mound, removing his cap and wiping the sweat from his brow.

Good is good enough.

Because Eovaldi is 22 and can throw a baseball 98 mph, he relies on this reminder, which comes free of charge from Double-A Chattanooga pitching coach Chuck Crim.

Good is good enough.

"Chuck's got a lot of sayings," the Dodgers' No. 2 -- and baseball's No. 66 overall -- prospect says with a laugh, "but that one, he's been saying a lot."

Here's why:

"A lot of times I get ahead of guy 0-2, 1-2 and I'm like, 'Alright, I want to pump up on this fastball and throw it harder.' Usually, it doesn't happen," Eovaldi said. "I'll ask a guy, 'What was that velo?' and he'll say, 'Not nearly as high your other ones.'

"It's the same with the slider. If I throw a dirty slider, I'm like, 'Alright, I want to try to throw a dirtier one.' I'm trying to do too much."

That explains the meaning behind Crim's four-word axiom.

"It's about mechanics," Eovaldi said, "and executing your pitches."

Executing is something the right-hander seems to do just fine most of the time. He was second in Southern League ERA (2.62) in 20 games before his first Major League callup last August and, squeezed out of Los Angeles' rotaion this spring, has a 3.72 mark through seven outings with the same club this season. asked Eovaldi to describe and grade each of the pitches he employs. (His grade is based on a scout's traditional 20-80 scale, 50 being the Major League average.) Here is Eovaldi, in his own words.

Pitch one: Four-seam fastball

Purpose: It's my most important pitch. I use it in any count. I usually use it as a first pitch when I'm going for a strike. Because it's overpowering -- from what I hear, it gets out of my hand really quick -- I use it to elevate on guys too: like, if I have 0-2 or 1-2, make a guy chase for it.

Grip: Regular four-seam grip. Sometimes the ball has some natural movement and cuts a little bit and sinks a little bit as well.

Speed: As of lately, it's a high of 97, 98 and I'll usually sit around 93, 94, 95. I try not to do too much because "good is good enough." For me, it all comes with delivery.

Grade: I would say mine is 70. I feel like it's my best pitch. There are times when I miss location, but usually my misses aren't too bad -- they're down in the zone.

Pitch two: Slider

Origin: I had been working on it in Inland Empire in 2010. I started using it during that season, and I kept crossing it up with my curveball because I was trying to use both. With my slider, it was either a hard cutter or it was actually sliding. And my curveball wasn't 12-to-6 at the time, it was a slurve. I was going through an injury at that time and I threw a lot at instructs, and I basically put the curveball on the back-shelf -- it was one of the first pitches I learned so I knew it'd come back -- and really started working on a slider, trying to get a true slider. I was working with Rafael Chaves and Chuck Crim, our pitching coach now in Double-A, really helped me out with it. He really taught me how and when to use it and keep that sharp edge on it to where it's coming in like a fastball and then dives down.

Purpose: To righties, it's a groundball pitch, moving away from their bats. First pitch, also 0-1, 0-2, down, backdoor.

Grip: Pretty similar to the way I hold my curveball. I just grip a little bit with the laces. Where the ball horseshoes, I go about halfway up there, between that two-seam grip and that horseshoe and grip the side of the ball and then really get on top and out in front and rip it down, straight down.

Speed: 84 to 88.

Grade: 60. The slider is my go-to after my fastball. I can locate it as well as my fastball. I feel real confident in it.

Pitch three: Curveball

Origin: That is the first breaking ball that I learned. I started throwing it in high school; my high school coach, Mike Rogers, taught me how to throw it.

Purpose: As of right now, I'm trying to make it a first-pitch option, to buy the first-pitch strike. My curveball is so big it's almost hard to throw for a contact pitch. It's a strike or a strikeout. It's a good 12-to-6. It almost feels like it's going at the batter's head and it just drops down for a strike. It kind of surprises me. Before it had a hump on it. Now, I've gotten to the point, where most of my curveballs are coming straight out like a fastball at the hitter's head and it dives off. Later in the count, 0-2, 1-2, if they're free-swingers, I'll throw one down in the zone or in the dirt and hopefully they'll be chasing it. I'll also throw it up to change the hitter's eye-level, a high pitch going down into the zone for a strike.

Grip: On the bottom of the horseshoe, if you're holding a two-seamer on the middle of the ball, just go down a little bit. With how big my hands are, I try to create a big gap with my thumb, setting my thumb under it. I'm really squeezing hard on the ball.

Speed: Anywhere from 75 to 79, 80.

Grade: The break is really good. The issue is throwing it for strikes. I'd say it's 40-45.

Pitch four: Changeup

Origin: It was one of the first pitches I originally learned. I just never really stuck with it because I always threw hard when I was younger -- I was more overpowering than hitters were used to -- so I was more of a fastball-curveball guy. I really learned my changeup after being drafted by the Dodgers in 2008. Casey Deskins, my pitching coach, really helped me with the grip. When I was in the Midwest League in '09, I really learned the importance of the changeup and how important it is to have one in my repertoire because I had an outing where I was trying to pump up on everybody and they were squaring up all my fastballs and I couldn't throw my curveball for a strike. We were on the road, playing against the Brewers affiliate [on May 1, 2009]. After that outing, I threw the changeup more -- I think I threw, maybe, 15-16 times in a game and got a lot of hitters out with it. Rafael Chaves, our Minor League pitching coordinator, really emphasized it too. So '08 I learned it, and '09 I really added it to my mix.

Purpose: I have been trying to use it as a first-pitch strike or, if somebody looks like they're on my fastball after the first swing. I don't use it as a strikeout pitch; it's more of a contact pitch for me. Usually, batters pop it up.

Grip: It's similar to the circle-change. You know how the fingers go over? I just don't make the circle, because I have really big hands. I hold the ball really lose in my hand and try to get out in front with it and get that good back-spin off the ball. Just try to throw it as hard as I can with a loose grip.

Speed: I've gotten it down a little more, so it's about 84, 85 to 87,88.

Grade: Pretty low. I'd say it's 30-35. I don't have as much confidence in it right now.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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