Pill Mixing It Up

Right-hander Tyler Pill quietly had a phenomenal first full season in 2012, posting a combined 2.31 ERA between the two A-ball levels. The 2011 fourth round pick isn't necessarily over-powering but few can mix it up quite as well as he can.

"I think it went pretty well," he said. "I started in Savannah and made my way up to St. Lucie. I think it went well. I learned a lot of new things and I was able to see the difference in the two levels I was at.

"I learned new pitch patterns and sequences, and I improved my performance and how I was able to pitch to different hitters. I think it went really well last year."

It sure did go really well. He struck out 105 batters in 113 innings, walked just 22 batters, and served up a meager five home runs along the way. A naturally humble guy, there wasn't too much more he could have done in what essentially was his debut season.

"There's always room for improvement," he admitted. "If I was up by a couple of runs [last year] sometimes I would pitch to scores and not really, as one of my coaches put it, step on their throats and kind of kick them when they were down.

"I would just try to get them to hit the ball and keep my pitch count down, and sometimes they'd score a run here or there."

Citing going for the kill a bit more often would be really be nit-picking, especially considering the already perceived high pitch-ability hurler made some advancements in what was otherwise already a deep repertoire.

"I made some good improvements with my fourth pitch," he revealed. "I started the year with a cutter, kind of like an experimental pitch. I'd throw it here and there in Savannah and I'd hang it, and somebody would rip it.

"By the time I got to St. Lucie I started throwing a slider instead and that opened up another way I could go about starting a hitter. I could work a different pattern, work a different angle of the plate, different views the hitters would see."

A four-pitch hurler -- five if you include both the two and four-seam fastball -- it's his ability to throw them all consistently for strikes and constantly get ahead in counts that really helped him keep hitters off-balance.

"Mix my pitches and get a feel -- we have scouting reports before a game what a guy struggles with -- my strength is the mix because I was a hitter in college," he said. "I have a good idea of what pitches screw hitters up in a sequence.

"In one at-bat I'll go fastball high and then curveball in the dirt with the next pitch. The next at-bat I know he knows it's coming so I'll mix it up and go fastball in."

A very cerebral pitcher, one who knows how to attack batters, Pill lists getting stronger and increasing his stamina as two areas he would like to improve going forward.

With his first full season out of the way and having the kind of success he had in 2012, a year in which he advanced two levels, he knows to have continued success he needs to keep mixing up his pitches and that is clearly already his biggest strength.

Whether it's going with his fastballs or any of his three quality secondary pitches, the fact is opposing batters don't really know what's coming.

"They're all kind of the same but I like going changeup more because changeups in my opinion are the toughest to hit. I like going to that more in fastball counts but I still feel comfortable throwing any of the other ones.

"I feel a lot stronger. I feel great. My confidence is high right now. It has to be though because baseball is a confidence game," he concluded.

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