Niesen Better Prepared to Start

St. Lucie left-hander Eric Niesen was given his first shot at being a full time starter in 2008 when the organization decided to slot him into the rotation. The early results were bumpy as Niesen endured a tough transition, but as the season went along he developed the tools necessary to execute and survive deeper into games.

It did not take long for Eric Niesen, the 3rd round pick in the 2007 Draft, to find out just how demanding becoming a starting pitcher can be. Though he did make nine starts in Brooklyn and one in St. Lucie in 2007, he only tallied 33 innings. This past season however, his arm would take the biggest toll yet.

The adjustment period was not short and it came with its lumps as Niesen got off to a 2-5 start with a 5.20 ERA through April and May. But following those first ten outings, he settled in, and in June rebounded with a 2-3 record and a 3.14 ERA. Though a late season dip [2-4, 5.03 ERA in his last 11 starts] caused him to finish the year with a rather ugly 6-12 record and 4.64 ERA, the 23-year-old southpaw left St. Lucie confident about where his game is going.

"I think it was a very progressive season. It was my first full season so that was a big step to begin with after just getting a taste of pro ball last season, but this season was more important about getting into the game more physically and mentally," said Niesen.

"This was a big year for me, getting to start all year," he continued. "After being primarily a reliever in college, and making so many short starts last year, I really had a big learning curve coming to St. Lucie and pitching all these innings and making this many starts."

For the 6-foot, roughly 200 pound left-hander the additional strain and work on his shoulder was a focal point. His 118.1 total innings pitched in 2008 likely would have been higher if not for a number of rough outings throughout the year, but the amount of innings forced him to alter his approach.

"The amount of pitches I threw and how deep I went into games was a big change for me," he said. "In Brooklyn last year, I would only throw three innings at a time on about 60 pitches in a reliever mentality, but this year I was moving to a groundball mentality from a strikeout one where I tried to get hitters out on three pitches or less."

The most important aspect of his added workload was building consistency which, by the numbers, he did not have much of throughout the season. For Niesen, that means constant preparation.

"I need to be consistently good, and that most important thing with that is the feeling of being totally prepared every time I go on the mound. Going out there every day in a full season for nearly 30 starts, I have to mentally prepare myself to be in the same attitude."

"I think another thing is, where I'm at, I have make every start like it's the most important game of the season. That's something that helps my consistency."

Specific to his pitching, two big differences Niesen adapted his season were improved location and movement on his fastball. Last season, he walked 26 batters in 33 innings and knew that to really earn distinction this year, he would have to cut that ratio. His 46 walks, for a comparatively lower ratio, were aided by his fastball.

"The big thing with my two-seam is to get the movement to break down through the zone rather than side to side. I get a lot of movement that runs away from hitters which led to walks in the beginning of the year," he explained.

The numbers may not have been pretty but with a full season's worth of starts under his belt, he heads into the off-season feeling more prepared for his future role than any time before.

"[This season] taught me what worked and what didn't, and what changed from start to start. It gave me a foundation and something to work at so I can come back stronger and no longer on the learning curve. I know what needs to be done, now it's about going out and doing it."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nIt did not take long for Eric Niesen, the 3rd round pick in the 2007 Draft, to find out just how demanding becoming a starting pitcher can be. Though he did make nine starts in Brooklyn and one in St. Lucie in 2007, he only tallied 33 innings. This past season however, his arm would take the biggest toll yet.
\r\n
\r\nThe adjustment period was not short and it came with its lumps as Niesen got off to a 2-5 start with a 5.20 ERA through April and May. But following those first ten outings, he settled in, and in June rebounded with a 2-3 record and a 3.14 ERA. Though a late season dip [2-4, 5.03 ERA in his last 11 starts] caused him to finish the year with a rather ugly 6-12 record and 4.64 ERA, the 23-year-old southpaw left St. Lucie confident about where his game is going.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it was a very progressive season. It was my first full season so that was a big step to begin with after just getting a taste of pro ball last season, but this season was more important about getting into the game more physically and mentally,\" said Niesen.
\r\n
\r\n\"This was a big year for me, getting to start all year,\" he continued. \"After being primarily a reliever in college, and making so many short starts last year, I really had a big learning curve coming to St. Lucie and pitching all these innings and making this many starts.\"
\r\n
\r\nFor the 6-foot, roughly 200 pound left-hander the additional strain and work on his shoulder was a focal point. His 118.1 total innings pitched in 2008 likely would have been higher if not for a number of rough outings throughout the year, but the amount of innings forced him to alter his approach.
\r\n
\r\n\"The amount of pitches I threw and how deep I went into games was a big change for me,\" he said. \"In Brooklyn last year, I would only throw three innings at a time on about 60 pitches in a reliever mentality, but this year I was moving to a groundball mentality from a strikeout one where I tried to get hitters out on three pitches or less.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe most important aspect of his added workload was building consistency which, by the numbers, he did not have much of throughout the season. For Niesen, that means constant preparation.
\r\n
\r\n\"I need to be consistently good, and that most important thing with that is the feeling of being totally prepared every time I go on the mound. Going out there every day in a full season for nearly 30 starts, I have to mentally prepare myself to be in the same attitude.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I think another thing is, where I'm at, I have make every start like it's the most important game of the season. That's something that helps my consistency.\"
\r\n
\r\nSpecific to his pitching, two big differences Niesen adapted his season were improved location and movement on his fastball. Last season, he walked 26 batters in 33 innings and knew that to really earn distinction this year, he would have to cut that ratio. His 46 walks, for a comparatively lower ratio, were aided by his fastball.
\r\n
\r\n\"The big thing with my two-seam is to get the movement to break down through the zone rather than side to side. I get a lot of movement that runs away from hitters which led to walks in the beginning of the year,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nThe numbers may not have been pretty but with a full season's worth of starts under his belt, he heads into the off-season feeling more prepared for his future role than any time before.
\r\n
\r\n\"[This season] taught me what worked and what didn't, and what changed from start to start. It gave me a foundation and something to work at so I can come back stronger and no longer on the learning curve. I know what needs to be done, now it's about going out and doing it.\"
\r\n
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