Gil Getting Closer To A Dream

David Gil doesn't pretend to be flashy. But don't even bother trying to strip him of gold. Whether it's driving on the streets of South Florida or finding his way through Chattanooga, Tenn., the former University of Miami right-hander proudly displays a 1999 national championship ring that he earned while climbing the school's record books in a number of pitching categories from 1997-2000.

"There's no question that winning a national championship in 1999 is the highlight of my career so far. A lot of teams have talent but they don't always come together like we did that year," says Gil, who figures prominently in the UM all-time record books with 51 starts, 312 strikeouts and 31 career wins, all accomplished during four years at the school. "But to go to Omaha and win it all was an unforgettable experience and an unbelievable feeling."

There could be some more special moments on the way if Gil gets his wish answered by the Cincinnati Reds.

Gil, a homegrown talent who attended Columbus High in the mid 1990's, signed with the Reds in 2000 and moved rather quickly through Cincinnati's minor league system before starting out the season in Double A. But the 6-4, 215-pounder from Miami is hearing news that he might be on his way up- soon.

"They've talked to me about moving to Triple A and there's also a chance of the big leagues," says the Gil, who through is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and nine saves for the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA) of the Southern League. "There are no certainties in this game so I can't rest easy."

Gil must be doing something right.

The Reds have already informed him that a call to the big leagues might not be too far away. But with an understanding of the game's financial and business side, Gil refuses to get caught up in the possibility of stepping into Great American Ballpark and living a childhood dream for the very first time. Gil wants to see the big league team succeed but at the same time is keeping a close eye on Cincinnati's pitching staff.

"I can't think about it," says Gil, 25. "We're definitely watching SportsCenter every night and keeping track of the pitchers in the Major Leagues but I'm still taking it day-by-day. No matter what happens I have to go out there everyday and do my job. The rest is really out of my hands."

Not everything.

After accumulating 19 victories in two stints with the Lookouts as a starter, Gil was converted into the team's closer in April. In his most recent outing, June 14, Gil pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save of the season. Last week, Gil secured a victory over Mobile by recording two ninth inning strikeouts on his way to another save.

After being a starter since his high school days at Columbus in the mid 1990's, Gil is still feeling his way into the role. Rather than have a prepared routine every four days before his next scheduled start, Gil has to stay on his toes everyday.

As the team's closer, the possibility exists that he could be summoned to finish every game. He uses the first six or seven innings to study the hitter's tendencies before heading to the bullpen for a possible appearance.

"It puts a little more of a grind in your arm but other than that I enjoy it," says Gil. "It really keeps you in the game."

Gil was receptive to the switch from starter to closer after being talked to by the coaching staff. One thing that Gil has learned over the last two months is that as the team's closer there is a bigger on staying mentality involved in the game. But other than that Gil has managed to a make a smooth transition.

"The thing is that when you start a hitter might have two, three or even four chances to adjust to your best stuff," says the 6-4 Gil, who relies on a fastball that hovers in the 89-92 range. Gil has also been working on a two-seam spit-finger pitch. "But being a closer I let it all hang out because there's a good chance I'm only going to be in there for one inning. It's less of a head game."

Gil already knows what it's like to be in there facing Major league type hitters. In his travels through the minor and fall leagues he has encountered battles with Texas' Hank Blalock, Oakland's Marc Elllis and Toronto's Josh Phelps.

"I know what it takes. I'm comfortable I have what it takes to get it done," he says. "But at the same time I have to patient. I can't lose focus on why I'm here."

Gil developed a reputation as a ‘power pitcher' during his career at UM as he averaged 6.1 strikeouts per start in four years. But his velocity was nothing to what it is now. Gil credits an off-season regimen and plenty of long-toss sessions for his increased speed on several pitches, including the fastball.

"There is always room for improvement and you have to do whatever it takes to stay sharp," says Gil. "There is always somebody ready to take your job."

There is another source of motivation in Gil's life these days. David's younger brother Danny Gil went 12-2 this season at Columbus and led the Explorers to a state title. Danny Gil was recently named to the All-Dade First Team.

"I can't say enough about him," says Gil. "I wish I was there with him but to be honest with you it's been a confidence booster for me. I see what Danny has done and that just makes me work even harder."

David wasn't as lucky as Danny during his days at Columbus. The 1996 Explorers team reached the regionals before being eliminated from the playoffs.

"I never threw as hard in high school like Danny is now," says Gil. "I can't even remember having the kind of stuff that Danny has. Talk about nasty. He was dominating."

But nobody will be complaining in the Gil household if David gets the call.

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