PEORIA, Ariz. — If you watch Dan Dallas pitch quite a few hoary sports cliches come to mind; “he’s a bulldog” or “he just knows how to pitch”; but behind every cliche is also an element of truth.
If Dan Dallas is pitching, then Dan Dallas is competing. It doesn’t matter if it's in front of a boat load of scouts, a state championship game or an inter-squad as the fifth pitcher in with maybe three to four people watching; he’s going to bring it.
Dallas was drafted in the seventh round of last year’s draft out of the Buffalo, New York area by the Padres. He was a four-year varsity starter at Canisius High School going 16-1 for his career - along with a pair of no-hitters. At the plate, he hit .492 with power in his senior year.
Last season in his professional debut in the Arizona League he threw 11.2 innings for a 3.09 ERA with a 16/7 strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio. The six-foot-one lefty is a solid 205 lbs. and appears to have gotten stronger over the winter. He throws a fastball, curve and change and right now sits in the low 90s with his fastball.
We caught up with Dallas on a back field inter-squad game after the scrum had left following the LHP Adrian Morejon outing, and Dan was impressive. He wasn’t as sharp as you would expect early in the spring, but still showed good command of a four-seam fastball accompanied by a decent curve.
Dallas just turned 19, he showed a very good lefty pick-off move, nailing a pair of runners and was athletic in fielding his position. Except for one mistake - where he got a pitch up, and one of his teammates took him deep - it was a solid performance.
Along with the other young Padres’ high school pitchers that were taken in last year’s draft, RHP Mason Thompson and RHP Reggie Lawson, Dallas is expected to stay in Extended Spring until at least late May or early June so he won’t bump up against an innings limit at the end of the year.
We got a chance to talk to Dan - after he stopped berating himself for getting that pitch up - to find out a little more about him.
MadFriars: A few years ago, under the old rules players would wait until the very end of the year they were drafted to sign with a club. Under the new system players get put on teams much quicker.
How much did it help you getting the pro experience you did last summer?
Dan Dallas: It was very helpful just getting into the whole process. Obviously, the players are much better than high school and that half-season was great in getting an idea of what to expect.
How did it affect your off-season? Did you think that you had to get better at certain aspects of the game?
Dan Dallas: The biggest difference I noticed that in high school it was all about just throwing harder. Now it's about, I have to become a better pitcher. Now it's about details hitting spots, getting the curveball sharper and throwing the change.
It was the same workouts, but a more intense attention to detail.
When I was watching you nearly everything was around the knees. What do you throw?
Dan Dallas: I throw a four-seam fastball, curve and changeup.
For someone that is from a cold-weather state where they don’t play as much baseball, you looked very poised and experienced on the mound. Where does that come from?
Dan Dallas: It’s all just about playing with confidence. There is a side where you have to bring a little bit of cockiness along with confidence where you know that you are going to get that batter out.
That is a big thing to me that no one is going to beat me unless I beat myself. Going in there and saying I’m going to get a batter out is what I like to do. If I make a mistake, I make a mistake but that is what I want to do.
Is that a big thing that you had to learn when you turned pro? If something doesn’t work for you, or you get beat, how to learn from it and get better?
Dan Dallas: That is the toughest thing for me right now. I never really dealt with failure in high school baseball in western New York. Coming out here and giving up runs and big hits, and then getting myself back together to make the next pitch is what is important.
What is the biggest difference besides all these guys are a lot better? It's going to keep trending that way as you move up?
Dan Dallas: From the hitter’s standpoint, they are smarter. It's not that they are that much bigger or better at baseball, they just don’t swing at junk.
They let the loopy curveball go, they let the one in the dirt go too. They are sitting up there for one pitch and if you give it to them they will hurt you. Its more about executing your pitches and now what pitches you can get strikes with.
What is your biggest goal coming into the season?
Dan Dallas: Consistency with the fastball and getting ahead with it. If you get behind it's tough to do what you want and you are going to end up giving the hitter what they want.
It's easy for guys like us to talk/write about getting ahead, but if you lay it in there we will write that you must “pitch” and hit the corners. A no-win situation. What are you trying to do on the mound?
Dan Dallas: You are trying to know your hitters and what you want to do before the game. I like looking at their swing path and knowing where I have to move up or down.
What I like is ground balls, just getting them to pound the ball into the dirt. What I don’t want to do is make a mistake up, that is where you can get hurt.