Although he was drafted in the fourth round in this June's draft, Beloit's Dylan Covey believes he is a better all-around pitcher coming out of college than he was in 2010 when he was the 14th-overall selection as a high schooler.
The 6'2'' right-hander spurned the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 and chose to attend the University of San Diego, where he learned to deal with Type-1 Diabetes and improve his work on the mound.
"Definitely learning to deal with the Diabetes diagnosis in college – that was the main reason I went," said Covey, who has made four starts for Beloit after being promoted from Vermont earlier this month. "I also learned how to be a better pitcher and understood myself better. I knew what worked and didn't work.
"In high school I could blow hitters away with my fastball, because most kids couldn't catch up with it. I didn't really need to know how to pitch, be deceptive or work counts. In college, it was a little bit different because I was now facing 18- or 20-year-old men. They can muscle up to that fastball, so you need to be deceptive with your delivery and locate pitches."
Covey, the 131st overall selection in this year's amateur draft, has been pushed along quickly by Oakland this summer. After allowing just one unearned run on nine hits in 12 innings for the Lake Monsters, and posting an impressive 15:1 K:BB ratio, he was sent to the Snappers.
The road hasn't been quite as smooth in the Midwest League, as Covey's command has slipped (8:7 K:BB) through four starts. He's allowed 34 base runners in his first 19 innings, to go along with a 5.68 ERA. In a Tuesday night start at Clinton, Covey surrendered three earned runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings. He struck out three and walked two in a no-decision.
Control problems also plagued Covey this season with the USD Toreadors, as he posted a 65:43 K:BB ratio and 5.05 ERA in 76.2 innings.
"I like his competitive nature and he's a bulldog on the mound that likes to come after people," Beloit manager Ryan Christensen said. "He has good velocity on his fastball. His breaking ball shows flashes of being a sharp breaker and the change-up is decent.
"He had pretty good location with it his first couple outings and was effective because of it, but lately he's been up in the 'zone and getting hit around because of it."
Christensen believes the command problems to be related to a mechanical issue and the right-hander continues to address it in between starts.
"It's some of the pitching philosophies, like standing the line," he said. "Not doing that is what led to his command issues – flying off a little bit."
A four-pitch pitcher with a low-90s fastball, curveball, change-up and slider coming out of college, Covey said he's currently focused on throwing just three of those.
"I came in with four pitches and they told me they like their pitchers to work with three," Covey said. "The idea behind it is to have three pitches you can throw for strikes whenever you want, instead of four pitches that you're bouncing around between. So I'm not throwing the slider much at all.
"In the minors, every team wants their pitchers to establish the fastball and develop the change-up. Then try to work with a three-pitch mix. It's working really well for me. I've had some inconsistent delivery problems the last week that I'm working on."
In addition to finding better location in and out, Covey is working to keep his pitches down against Midwest League hitters.
"They like low strikes and don't necessarily care if it's in or out, they just want it at the knees," Covey said. "Everyone is always working on that. I'm going to try executing that game plan to the best of my ability."
Although Covey threw a full season in college, he has been put in position to add more innings as the summer winds down. The A's haven't had to handcuff him as much as some other members of their 2013 draft class who came into pro ball with higher college workloads. Covey opened with a 55-pitch count in his initial Beloit start and took the mound Tuesday night with an 80-pitch limit.