Chad Beck's 2007 season would be best described as solid. He went 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA. fanning 48 batters and walking 20 over 52 innings. The Diamondbacks always like to leave a handful of veterans in Low-A at the start of the season to show younger, less-experienced prospects the ropes. Beck's genial personality made him an obvious choice, and his good-but-not-dominant numbers allowed the front office to resist advancing him to Visalia at the start of the season.
While the 23-year old Beck doubtlessly benefited some of the more neophyte members of the South Bend Silver Hawks, his fantastic play during the season's first month warranted his matriculation to a more advanced level. I asked Beck what the biggest factor for his early season success had been.
Beck (left) chats with Jarrod Parker, who is 4 years younger
"I've been working on commanding my fastball, and it's been really effective," Beck replied. "I'm not falling behind in counts, and just trying to finish hitters when I get ahead."
Beck was able to do that convincingly on April 11th, when he got seven Swing batters to swing and miss in three inning of relief.
"Sometimes you go out and you have a better offspeed than certain days," he explained. "Obviously, in Quad Cities, I just had better offspeed going that day, and I was really able to go out and finish hitters."
But oddly, Beck allowed a run that game on two hits and a wild pitch. His best outing of the season was his next one, a three-inning win in Kane County in which he struck out no batters, but allowed just one base runner over those nine outs. Konrad Schmidt, who caught Beck in the win, explained after the game how Beck succeeded without overpowering the Cougar hitters.
"He didn't even have his best stuff today, but he competed," Schmidt said. "His slider was a little sloppy, but he got outs with it and pitched with what he had tonight."
I asked Beck about that breaking pitch, and he explained why it's not quite as consistent as he'd like it to be yet.
"It's called a slider, but I think it's more of a little slurve. I hold it right in the middle of a curveball and a slider [grip] and just try to get on top of it," described Beck. "I'd like to work on it and get it to be more of a true slider. Sometimes it tends to get loopy on me, but that's just something I'm working on."
Facing more advanced batters in a hitting-friendly league will force Beck into making those adjustments. The early results are favorable, with Beck tossing two scoreless innings in his Cal League debut May 2nd. Clearly, his more intimidating surroundings do not intimidate him. On the contrary, Beck feels that his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame might intimidate the opposing hitters.
"I'd like to think so," Beck said with a smile. "I hope it does. Anything to give me a little edge."
Right now Beck is pitching like a man who doesn't need any special advantages. That said, there are reasons that this Texan would rather play in the California League than in in the Midwest League that go beyond career advancement.
"I'm glad I pitched good in the cold weather, because I'm from the south, and I was freezing!"
Final 2008 South Bend Numbers: 2-0, 2.04 ERA, 17.2 IP, 13 H, 0 HR, 19 K, 3 BB
of our full interview with Chad Beck.
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