Dinelson Lamet’s fast start for the Lake Elsinore Storm has some system watchers wondering how aggressively the San Diego Padres will time a promotion to Double-A. (Heck, some wondered that well before the season.)
While there are many elements of a promotion timeline that a player cannot control, there’s one that he can: his performance. The 23-year-old righty has more than done his part in that regard.
Since coming stateside last year, the Dominican has held opponents to a .215 average, struck out more than a batter an inning, and racked up a 2.54 ERA. In the offense-friendly California League this spring, he’s been even more impressive on his way to a 1.67 ERA in his first 43 innings.
More importantly, he’s showing that he can occasionally use his change-up to get strikes, and is working effectively against hitters multiple times through the lineup.
There are plenty of outside issues for the Padres to consider as they think about when to move up Lamet – including the overall atmosphere of the San Antonio club right now and the likelihood that the 6’4” hurler could start the Carolina League/Cal League All-Star Game that Lake Elsinore will host on June 21.
But one thing that’s certain is that if Lamet keeps pitching the way he has thus far, joining the Texas League will not be the most important move he makes.
We talked to Lamet, with his catcher Jose Ruiz serving as a translator along the way, on the Storm’s last homestand.
MadFriars: There aren’t many Dominican players who start their careers at 22 years old. Can you tell us a little about your journey before joining the Padres?
Dinelson Lamet: In 2012, I was going to sign with the Phillies, but ran into a problem with my papers. So I got sent back to the Dominican and had to wait a year before I could sign. In 2014, I signed with the Padres.
Did you have to sit out the year in 2013 then?
Dinelson Lamet: Yes.
When you started last year, you had a lot of issues with stolen bases, balks, pitching with men on. How much of that was because of the time you lost? How did you focus on improving that over the season?
Dinelson Lamet: I had to work a lot last year to hold the runner, stopping in my delivery, changing my timing, and still stay balanced to make good pitches and attack the hitter.
Obviously, your fastball is good enough to do a lot of damage in Single-A. I assume getting called strikes with the slider and using the change-up more are the priorities right now?
Dinelson Lamet: I’m using the change-up to get groundballs and the slider to get fastball. [On May 10], I threw five change-ups, but the game before I threw 12 or 13. [At this point, Ruiz switched from translator to commentator, adding “He’s been working in the change-up really well in the bullpen, so now he’s throwing it more in the game. It’s a really good pitch to keep the hitters off-balance.”]
Last year, you never really had to face batters more once or twice because of the innings limits. Now that you’re seeing guys a third time through, what does that change in how you approach it?
Dinelson Lamet: The first time through, I’m going to attack the lineup with my fastball. If I see the hitter had trouble, I’ll continue to throw the fastball, but if they’re on it, I’ll use my breaking ball more.
It really has seemed like you’re having fun out there this year?
Dinelson Lamet: I can’t miss that it’s a game. I can be focused and concentrate, but still have fun. I really like the game and want to do my job at it.
It almost seems like sometimes you take it personally when a hitter connects against you and that the next time, you were going to come back and get the next time.
Dinelson Lamet: Of course. Sometimes if I think the hitter has too much confidence, or if the player in front of him gets a hit, I think ‘come on, I can get him,’ and work hard to get that next hitter.