Pucetas Works Hard (And Early)

Hailing from a small school in South Carolina and being drafted late on the first day of the draft doesn't always lead to a lot of attention. But one young player has his own way of making an impression. He's done it so far in the organization, and now, it's up to the fans to notice. It shouldn't take long.

Spring Training can be a tough time in minor league camp.  Games don't start until a couple of weeks after the major league games to.  And as much as big leaguers can be eager to prove themselves, minor league players can be even more ready to go and prove they are ready for the next level.

If you were there, when workouts begins, you'd notice one player heading out to the fields a little while before the other players start the trek down to the lower fields.

That is Kevin Pucetas.

"I've always been a huge advocate of being the first player on the field.  There's nothing like that," he says of his daily trek.  "Coaches see it, when you're the first one there and the last one to leave, it obviously makes a huge impression.  So I've always been like that, and always pride myself on that."

Pucetas, 22, got his start in baseball from someone who had a job that always demands hard work and pride in it.  "My grandpa kind of started me into the game.  He played with the Navy a long time ago.  From there, I've been playing ever since I was 5," he says of his start in the game.  And unlike some, his path to the pros has been fairly straight-forward.  "Funny thing is I've always pitched, I've never really done anything else…It's funny I got drafted by a National League team, but I have not swung a bat in a game since I was like 10.  I'm not looking forward to that."

Even if he never used a bat, his hard work paid off.  The Giants plucked the left-hander away from Division-II school Limestone college in South Carolina in the 17th round of the 2006 draft.  The Giants drafting of Pucetas did not come as much of a surprise.  "I had filled out letters from about 20 teams…The Braves were very interested, that was kind of my hometown team."  But the Giants scout got an eyeful.

"It's funny though, my last college start, the Giants came out and watched me.  They watched me throw one start after a complete game, and I threw like 170 pitches.  This is like small-time college.  We don't really have anybody else.  From then on, he called me about every week, leading up to the draft, wanting to know who else was talking with me.  From there on, I kinda knew it was the Giants, which was really awesome for me."

The move to the pros signaled several big changes for Pucetas.  Not the least of which was his audience.  "[In college], I'd probably throw in front of about 200 people or so until we got to our conference tournament.  I think the main difference is, it's very easy to get that game-face on and adrenaline going in front of thousands of people versus throwing in front of one or two hundred.  But the thing is that one or two hundred people, you know ‘em.  You know everybody that's out there versus three or four thousand strangers.

Pucetas joined a powerful Salem-Keizer team, and although other players like Tim Lincecum and Adam Cowart's stats jumped out, Pucetas had a 2.17 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 19 walks in 70.2 innings pitched, and he contributed 7 wins to the team's record-breaking season.  And despite how some players did steal the headlines for the fans, the team was a spectacular single unit inside the clubhouse.   "That team in Salem had the best team chemistry I've ever experienced.  And I'm not the only guy that was on the team that said so," he said of his time there.  "When you can pitch well and you can play defense well…you're going to have a formula for success."

Now, Pucetas is looking ahead to the future.  He recognized the need for more hard work to reach his ultimate goal of making the majors.  "I've always been a very good command pitcher.  I don't throw awfully hard, I'm about 90-91, but for a right hander that's pretty average."  With that knowledge, he went into the offseason with a goal in mind.  "I really wanted to work on my changeup, my third pitch."

"As I move up, I'm definitely going to need more weapons.  And I really really wanted to refine my changeup this offseason.  And so far, it's looking really good."

He had been working in relief in Spring Training, but that may not be where he ends up.  "I'm not exactly sure what [the Giants] have in store for me just yet.  I think they still want me to start.  Which is great with me, but relieving I don't have a problem with .  If relieving will get me closer to making the big leagues, I'll be more than happy to do that."

And while Pucetas is expected to be at one of the Single-A levels, there are positives to both possible destinations.  "As far as I'm concerned, Augusta would be great, because, I'm pretty close to home…My friends and family can come watch me," he says of the GreenJackets, who play in northern Georgia.  "On the other hand, I'd love to be in San Jose.  Hopefully, the organization thinks enough of me to maybe put me there and challenge me a little bit."

Until then, Pucetas has set one rather modest goal for the season, one that is completely in reach yet so hard for many to make it seems.  "This is my first full season, we've got 140 games.  If I'm a starter, I would absolutely love to make every start this year… I feel as though, if I can make every start as consistent as a guy that I have been…good things are going to happen for me."
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Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at kevin@ugcfilms.com .

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