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Bailey Dees Transitioning Strongly Into Starting Role 

May 18, 2024

Bridgewater, New Jersey – What’s old is once again new for Patriots right-hander Bailey Dees. The 25-year-old North Carolina-native has been one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the Yankees system over the last three seasons, pitching to a 3.03 ERA with 11.2 K/9 in 122 career innings out

Bridgewater, New Jersey – What’s old is once again new for Patriots right-hander Bailey Dees. The 25-year-old North Carolina-native has been one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the Yankees system over the last three seasons, pitching to a 3.03 ERA with 11.2 K/9 in 122 career innings out of the bullpen entering this 2024 campaign.

After making the transition from reliever to starter this past spring, Dees has quietly emerged as one of the more reliable and consistent starters in the Somerset rotation. After allowing just one earned run against Altoona last Sunday, Dees is now 2-2 with a 4.41 ERA – he has fanned 33 batters in 32.2 innings of work.

Dees was a four-year college starter at Penn State University before the Yankees drafted him out of State College with their 18th round draft selection in 2021. The Bombers saw great promise for him as a leverage reliever and that’s the role he has thrived in for the entirety of his professional career. That was until spring training rolled around mere weeks ago when the organization approached him and floated him the opportunity to transition back into a starting role. As they say, the rest is history.

“I was excited as soon as they asked me,” admitted Dees. “I had started in college all four years, so I had done it in the past. I loved relieving, but I also loved starting in college, so it was just whatever they needed me to do.”

Dees is equipped with a four-pitch repertoire that is spotlighted by a mid-90’s fastball that seemed to tick-up on the radar guns during camp in Tampa. The Yankees brass took note and thought his pitch package coupled with a strong 6’8” frame had all of the ingredients of a projectable starting pitcher.

“I guess just because of how they built me up during spring - things were going well and some of my pitches had improved a little bit,” said Dees. “It was something that they came to me with and I just kind of had the attitude of whatever they need, I’m down.”

Dees added, “Right now, my fastball is what I am most comfortable throwing. I have always been comfortable throwing that pitch and it’s been successful for me. The slider is something we worked on this offseason to develop a gyro-slider, so I am pretty comfortable with that right now, too. The change-up is the pitch that I would say I’d like to get more consistent with and throw it in better locations and we’re working on that.”

While Dees continues to polish his arsenal, getting acclimated to the organization’s pitching program and dedicating his offseason to making necessary adjustments has played a pivotal role in helping his pure stuff play up as he begins his third full season in the system.

“Sam Briend has been an incredible help for me, pitching-wise,” said Dees. “We worked on some stuff this offseason and during spring training that I think has just really helped me. All of the drills and the work that the pitching coaches throughout the Yankees organization has had me do the past three years; the development here has been incredible. Just the drill packages, the stuff we’re doing in the weight room, the nutrition, everything has been great.”

When the curtain dropped on Dees debut against Richmond on April 6, the results were less than encouraging. The Flying Squirrels touched him up for eight earned runs after allowing five hits and five walks over just 3.1 innings. While the routines of a starter and reliever are vastly different, the mental approach that both roles require is similar. You have to be equipped with a short memory and the ability to turn the page quickly.

“I always like to say that you are only as good as your next one,” said Dees. “Take each outing with a grain of salt – look at what I did well and look at what I didn’t do well, but just move on from it. I am a big believer in God’s plan and so I would say that just continuing to have faith in God and what he has in store for me has really been my mindset this whole year, good or bad, it is all part of a bigger plan.”

Move on he did, and it was an onward and upward ascent over his next five outings. In an April 13 outing on the road in New Hampshire, Dees allowed just one earned run on three hits with six punchouts in 4.1 innings of work. The former Nittany Lion then followed that up with the deepest outing of his pro career on April 18 against Hartford – he allowed just three earned runs on 90 pitches over a career-high 6.0 innings while fanning a career-best nine batters.

Since his forgettable opening night outing, Dees has allowed three runs or less in every start – his ERA over that stretch is a mere 2.47.

“After his first start, what he showed in New Hampshire and what he showed here at home, he is just more confident,” said Manager Raul Dominguez. “After the first one, he worked in the bullpen on his plan and met with his pitching coaches and he has been good, and he looks like he has been a starter for a while.”

Pitching prospects are constantly a work in progress and every outing is a platform to grow and evolve. During this transition back into the rotation, Dees has been adjusting to the sheer volume with respect to the appearances that his talented right arm had grown accustomed to.

“I would say just the volume of pitches that I am having to throw has been the biggest thing for me.” Dees explained. “Obviously as a reliever you throw one or two innings at a time and you’re probably throwing one to two times a week. Starting is one extensive outing, so I am just getting used to the volume of pitches and five or six innings at a time. That’s really been the biggest adjustment.”

There’s the whole mental side to this transition, too. Most relievers are able to empty the tank and throw with maximum effort with full understanding that their appearances are going to be short and sporadic. On the flip side, starters usually have to take a more measured approach with their arsenal in order to pace themselves over an extended outing.

“I thought that was something I thought that I would have to change my mindset with,” Dees said. “But as I’ve done it the past three weeks, I’ve realized that having the same mentality that I had in the bullpen as a starter has kind of helped me out. Just taking what I learned in the bullpen and now as a starter for a longer period of time and that has been successful for me.”

As Dees enters his eighth start of the season on Saturday afternoon against Portland, the 21.60 ERA he departed opening day with seems like a distant memory. The opportunities are limited in this game and Dees wants to make sure he doesn’t approach any of them with less than his best effort.

“Did I take each start for what it’s worth,” Dees pondered. “I don’t want to look back and say that I took this start, or that start, for granted. I want to continue to stay on the attack and continue to improve each and every start. It doesn’t have to be drastic but definitely small improvements every start.”

Matt Kardos | Senior Writer

Matt Kardos has covered the Yankees minor league system for over a decade and will spend his 12th season on the beat covering the Patriots for Throughout his career, Matt has contributed to, YES Network and Pinstriped Prospects. When he’s not at the ballpark, Matt enjoys traveling with his wife Kimberly, watching Jets football and collecting sports cards.