"You're talking about a guy who was a middle infielder and has become a pitcher," Gnats pitching coach Frank Viola said, "and he's picked it up really well. His mechanics and delivery are very good."
Still very young the 21-year old Cessa has had to learn the ins and outs of being a minor league starter. He has adapted and learned the day to day procedures that make for a good pitcher even on the days he doesn't see any game action.
"His side work is so much fun to watch because he has a game plan and routine now that he did not have before," Viola added. "He's got the whole package. He understands what pitching is all about. I really believe it does help that he was a fielder and a hitter. He's got the whole concept."
Coach Viola also complemented Cessa's quality work ethic. Cessa is having fun pitching and according to Coach Viola it shows in his results to begin his first full pro-season.
"He's thinking like a pitcher now and has really taken it to the next level his first few starts of the season," Viola said prior to Sunday's game.
Statistically Cessa's improvement in 2013 is most obvious when glancing at his walk column. In 53 innings in 2011 Cessa walked 13 hitters. But for 2012 he walked the same number in 19 additional innings dropping has walks per nine from 2.2 to 1.6. Thus far in 2013 he has walked just seven batters.
Cessa is most confident with the fastball and throws both the two and four-seam variety [but throwing more four-seamers than two]. His offspeed offerings include a circle change, a curveball, and a slider.
At the beginning of the season Cessa said he was hitting 95 but in his last couple of starts his four-seam fastball was in the 92-93 mph range.
Coach Viola said Cessa's fastball runs in the 91-95 bracket depending on the day. He said Cessa spots the four-seam well and gets nice run on the two-seam. Voila heaped the most praise on Cessa's change-up.
"His changeup is above average, no question," Viola said, "and he can throw that any time."
Viola, however, described Cessa's curveball as an "on-off pitch" but still feels it is currently still better than his slider. But with the improved slider Viola feels Cessa is on his way to becoming a complete pitcher.
"I think Cessa's curveball is a better pitch for him right now because it's a more natural pitch and he has a better feel for it," Viola continued. "His slider has surprised me and he's getting better with it and can now go to it when the curve is not working."
Cessa appears to have an aggressive mentality when it comes to his pitch selection, indicated by his preference to go with the hard stuff.
When going after a strikeout Cessa likes to come with his fastball.
"I really love the fastball," Cessa admitted. "I like to use the fastball inside to get a strikeout, sometimes the slider but usually the fastball."
In preparation for 2013 Cessa worked to get better "physically and mentally" and wanted to improve his body and arm strength.
To accomplish those tasks Cessa did long-toss, bullpens, flush runs, and worked on his upper and lower body in an attempt to improve all aspects of his physicality.
From a mound perspective, Cessa devoted time this past winter to improving his slider because he felt it was hanging and not breaking sharply and consistently enough.
To hold runners on Cessa has learned to alter his looks to first base. Sometimes he steps off or mixes in a slide step in order to prevent the runner from timing him. Coach Viola said his move to home is around 1.25 which is quick enough [anything under 1.3 seconds] to give the catcher a chance to throw out an attempted base stealer.
Through his first four starts Cessa is most satisfied with the command he has shown pitching inside. His goal for the remainder of 2013 is to finish strong in the South Atlantic League.
"This year, I want to finish strong in this league. Sometimes you start well but in the last games you start to feel a little lost or tired. I want to stay mentally strong," Cessa concluded.
Cessa Still Learning
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