"I don't think anybody expected him to be quite as effective as he has been," Dunedin pitching coach Darold Knowles said. "I think his athleticism has helped him to achieve that, and he's got a very bright future."
In 16 outings this season entering Saturday's start, 13 of which have been starts, Molina touts an 8-3 record, 2.81 ERA and .249 batting average against. Taking care of the command aspect of his game, Molina has struck out 93 batters while walking just eight.
"I like to throw to get contact," Molina said. "I try to count my pitches a little bit. I try to throw, in one inning, less than 10 pitches, or less than 15 pitches. That's a good count."
Greatly assisting the righty in getting batters out has been his splitter. The 22-year old does also have a fastball, changeup and slider to work with, but it's the splitter that's his out-pitch. He saves it for when it matters most; when he's ahead in the count.
"Really, I don't throw [that pitch a lot]," he said. "I throw that pitch only when I get up in my count, 0-2, 1-2, 2-2. I throw the pitch to strikeout [batters]. That's my best pitch."
Coach Knowles weighed in on Molina's splitter and how good of a pitch it is for the Jays' prospect.
"It looks like a fastball, and then the bottom falls out of it. It's the type of pitch where he could probably be a starter or a closer," Knowles stated. "He's basically now just using it with two strikes, and when it's right, and usually is, it's almost an unhittable pitch right now.
"Unfortunately it's hard to throw for strikes so you have to get them to chase it, but that's the nature of the split anyway."
Molina has actually been better against left-handed opposition this season, with an ERA of 0.89 versus southpaws and a 4.64 ERA versus righties. Regardless, Knowles said that Molina's splitter can be thrown effectively against both sides.
"It doesn't matter; either one. It's just a great strikeout pitch for him. Sometimes when it's not real good, which it usually is real good, but when it's not, he still gets ground balls out of it," Knowles explained. "He's been very, very good with it. I don't expect it to change. I expect it to just get better."
The All-Star break has seemed to work out well for Molina so far. For young pitchers, staying consistent can be an ongoing struggle, but Molina has managed to come back strong in the second half of the season. Since the break, he's made four appearances, giving up three runs total in that stretch.
"I feel good. My arm is good, feeling strong," Molina said. "After the break, I feel much better because I get 10 days off. After [those] 10 days off, I feel much better getting and doing my work."
Molina has shown great upside this season at the high-A level, and the numbers he's been putting up makes it seem like just a matter of time until he gets called up. Knowles thinks Molina has the talent to pitch at the next level, but acknowledged that the righty is a converted infielder, and still needs time to come into his own as a pro pitcher.
"He could go higher than [Double-A], but he's not ready to do it at this point because he hasn't pitched that much," Knowles said. "He's a converted infielder and he's made the jump very easily. It's because he's such a good athlete.
"He's still learning how to pitch, still makes a mistake or two; it's usually with his fastball. He's now throwing a real hard curveball to go with a great changeup, great split, good enough fastball, and tremendous command, so he's got a chance to be a pretty good pitcher."
Molina Splitting It Up
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