Tapia Sliding Up

ST. LUCIE, FL – After a one year stint with the Savannah Sand Gnats, Domingo Tapia came to St. Lucie with an ERA just shy of 4.00 and a slider that needed some work. Today, a year later, the 6-foot-4 pitching prospect from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is reaping the fruits of his labor with a team-best ERA for pitchers with 30+ innings and a refined breaking ball.

Although Mets manager Ryan Ellis only saw Tapia for a few innings in the spring, the things he heard about him proved to be right on target early on.

"It's the first time I've really seen him pitch," Ellis said. "You know, I've heard a lot about [him] but with my own eyes I've been very impressed with the way he's composed himself.

"Also when I heard about his breaking ball, his breaking ball even from game one till now has gotten a lot sharper. He's gotten a better feel for it, he's starting to feel more comfortable throwing that pitch ahead in the count or behind in the count."

For Tapia that exact pitch was an area of concern a year ago. He knew that it was time for him to expand his pitching repertoire.

"I have command of my fastball and my changeup, but the slider was the one I really wanted to get to that same level as the other two," Tapia explained through the help of a translator.

While Ellis sees his breaking ball as more of a curveball, the Mets skipper is nonetheless thrilled about the young pitcher's progress.

"It's more of a curveball for me," Ellis professed. "And I know with the arm angle maybe it is construed as a slider at times. I think it's become more of a curveball for me even from that angle.

"It's good to have pitches that work both sides of the plate – both hard and soft. I mean changing speed; it's a good combination to have."

The other part of Tapia's game that Ellis is impressed with are his fastball and changeup. And while the first-year manager for St. Lucie is not entirely sure how much of what Tapia does is deliberate, he does know that the right-hander will only improve moving forward.

"He has good sink on his fastball," Ellis said. "I don't know whether it is from his arm angle or the way he holds the ball, but it's a hard sink.

"But with the change of speed with the changeup it also has good depth and it also cuts a little bit at certain times. I don't know whether he has a great feel for it, but he does have a feel for the change of speed and his arm angle doesn't slow down.

"He has the same arm angle, which is what we want, but as far as the sinking or the depth and cut on the changeup [goes], I don't know whether he knows where it's going or not. But as he matures he'll get a better feel for that."

Tapia's improvements have earned the pitcher a stellar 2.23 ERA to go along with 28 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. Furthermore, he pitched three gems in seven outings [19 innings total] to the tune of just two runs, none of which were earned.

But while Tapia is enjoying his best statistical season in the minor leagues so far, he also knows that his success is largely dependent on staying consistent.

"The most important thing is to stay consistent, to have one good outing and then just try to maintain that same level throughout the season, trying to maintain that same level of success," Tapia concluded.

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