Juan De Paula didn't have his best stuff in the first few innings Thursday afternoon, but once he turned the corner, he never looked back.The Yankees right-hander fired six hitless frames and combined with a pair of relievers on a one-hitter as Class A Short Season Staten Island blanked Williamsport,
Juan De Paula didn't have his best stuff in the first few innings Thursday afternoon, but once he turned the corner, he never looked back.
The Yankees right-hander fired six hitless frames and combined with a pair of relievers on a one-hitter as Class A Short Season Staten Island blanked Williamsport, 1-0, at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. It was the second time in his last three outings that De Paula held an opponent hitless.
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"He actually started a little slow tonight; in his first couple innings he was a little out of sync and out of rhythm," Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps said. "He didn't have the good down angle on his fastball and his off-speed pitches were a little flat. After the second inning we tried to calm him down and told him to focus on keeping the ball down. He made a great adjustment in the third and put up some quick innings after that. It just all connected."
De Paula walked leadoff man Malvin Matos to start the first before striking out Josh Stephen and Jake Scheiner and getting Greg Pickett to ground into an inning-ending force out. He walked Phillies No. 22 prospectJhailyn Ortiz to open the second, uncorked a wild pitch that advanced Ortiz to third two batters later, and walked Brian Mims before Rodolfo Duran flew out to center fielder Andy Diaz, who threw Ortiz out at the plate to end the frame with a double play.
After chatting with Phelps and the Yankees staff, De Paula bounced back to retire seven in a row before again walking Mims with one out in the fifth. After a balk moved Mims to second, the 19-year-old struck out Duran and got Jesus Azuaje to fly to right before working a clean sixth to finish his impressive day. He got through the final four innings in 53 pitches after tossing 38 in the first two frames.
"He really attacked with his fastball today after the second, just like he did against Tri-City [two starts ago]," Phelps said. "He came in hard and located down and away, very similar to what he did in that game. He didn't have as crisp of a curveball today, so he went more to the changeup -- he made a nice adjustment there recognizing which secondary pitch was his strength today, and that's what he stayed with."
De Paula was coming off his worst outing since his debut June 22 at Hudson Valley, having allowed four runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings last Friday against Aberdeen. After a discussion with Phelps, he got back to his strengths Thursday.
"He has a really good changeup, and when he's driving his fastball down and working the change off it, he's tough to hit," Phelps said. "He got away from that and got overaggressive with his fastball where he could have gone to his changeup. We talked about using the right pitch sequences in the right situations, and that was the difference between his last start and this start."
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A 6-foot-3, 185-pound native of the Dominican Republic, De Paula was 2-3 with a 5.25 ERA through five starts with Staten Island after posting a 2.58 ERA over 118 2/3 innings in two seasons of Rookie-level ball. He's allowed two earned runs and eight hits over his past 16 innings to lower his season ERA to 3.60, and Phelps lauded his growth as a pitcher in the short time he's been with the team.
"I think just being able to drive the ball down below the knees, he's learned how to pitch down effectively and elevate effectively," Phelps said. "Being able to locate with his fastball as he does now, that's the big difference I've seen in him from early in the season until now.
"Early in the season [his best secondary pitch] was his changeup, but he's really gained a lot of confidence with his curveball. Now he's gaining that confidence, and he uses both of them effectively at any time."
Phillies second-round pick and 23rd-ranked prospect Spencer Howard matched De Paula through four hitless innings, striking out seven and walking two in his second consecutive scoreless four-inning start.
"I've been around long enough that I know it doesn't happen very often," Phelps said of the early pitching dominance. "So you enjoy it, take advantage of it when it happens and make sure the players enjoy it and realize it's something special."
Andy Diaz doubled to lead off the eighth, advanced to third on Cesar Diaz's sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch by Luis Ramirez with two outs for the game's only run.
Chris Tripodi is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi.