Name: Cesar Carrillo
DOB: April 29, 1984
The Padres remained very cautious with their prized first rounder and for good reason. After forearm tenderness, they shut him down and downplayed the injury. Three weeks later he resurfaced with the Portland Beavers, lasting 2.2 innings before being shelved for the year.
It was later revealed that he developed pain in the back of the elbow. So far, he has eluded surgery and that is the hope moving forward. The Padres believe it simply needed rest after he pumped significant innings the year before.
But the concern coming out of college was 6-foot-3 frame wasn't supported by a 200-pound frame (he weighs in at 180-pounds) and was more susceptible to injury. As long as it isn't a recurring injury, and the Padres don't believe it will be, there shouldn't be a whole lot of concern.
"There are reasons why guys hurt themselves and I saw it in spring training and there is people I said this to," Portland pitching coach Gary Lance said. "‘I worry about his arm if he is going to continue to throw with that arm speed and those mechanics.' Low and behold he gets injured.
"He is young. He mends fast and hopefully I, or somebody else, can get to him and get his elbow elevated and get it up high for leverage and protection."
"I don't think it was a mechanical thing that hurt his elbow," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk countered. "He had a good delivery and I never really thought there was anything wrong with it. If anything he might have rushed a little bit. But this guy is on the fast track and hopefully this elbow thing is in the past. I don't think it was a mechanical thing that hurt his elbow. I can't tell you what it was.
"I saw him pitch his elbow was bothering him and he didn't tell anybody. He used his other pitches. He used his changeup that day, which is a pitch we wanted to get him to use anyway. He finds a way. He is competitive and wants to win. That is what he did in college."
Carrillo was on the fast track to San Diego. He had made just nine starts with Double-A Mobile before the promotion to Portland and subsequent injury that delayed his only start there.
Given a clean bill of health, it would have been interesting to see Carrillo in a September call up as an audition for next season. Given his ability to pitch in big games with Miami it would not have been a stretch to see him help in the playoff push.
Now, however, Carrillo has less than 110 innings of minor league action and an injury that went from downplayed to major in the big scheme of things. At the end of the year, Carrillo was participating in long toss without any pain.
This off-season has been much of the same for Carrillo and the Padres won't truly know what they have until he arrives in spring training and begins throwing off the mound. Pain could require surgery and shelve him for all of 2007.
"The trainer didn't feel like it was any major risk of a UCL injury, it was just some muscle soreness on the back side," Padres' assistant to Grady Fuson, Mike Wickham said. "I thought that if he got going at Triple-A, that he definitely would be [joining the big-league club]. I'm disappointed, but I'd be a lot more disappointed if something was torn."
"Carrillo looks like he's on the path," Padres' vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson contends.
"I saw a guy that was very competitive," 2006 Mobile pitching coach Glenn Abbott said. "He needed to get his command on his glove side, away from a right-handed hitter. He pitches inside very well, on his arm side in to a right-hander and away from a left-hander. He can do that very well. He needs command of his glove side fastball and to be able to throw that changeup consistently for strikes. He was in the process of getting that done and he went to Triple-A and his arm was a little tender. It was a little tender before he left and the trainers thought it was just forearm soreness. It ended up being a little more than that and hopefully he will be ok."
As for the games he did play in, the right-hander surrendered two earned runs or less in seven of his nine outings with Mobile. He gave up 45 hits in 50.2 innings and upped his concentration with runners in scoring position, yielding just eight hits in 41 at bats.
The strength of Carrillo's game comes from fastball command and an improving changeup from his three-quarters delivery. He can spot up his pitches well and keeps hitter's off-balance with the changeup. His fastball, which sits in the low to mid 90's and has reached 96 MPH, has significant life late in the zone, allowing him to miss even more bats. Batters rarely get good wood on his pitches because of the late life.
His two-seam fastball is a pitch he works with early in the count to force ground ball outs and pitch inside before going to his four-seam fastball as the put away pitch. Carrillo mixes in a curveball that works well on both righties and lefties.
The right-hander has a tendency to focus on the strikeout when he is ahead in the count. That extra effort has been counterproductive at times as he will overthrow and get wild. His curveball, which sits in the low-80's is his strikeout pitch and the improvement of his changeup over the last year has allowed him to fool many a hitter.
For a power pitcher, Carrillo has a firm understanding of keeping the ball down and gets a surprisingly large number of ground ball outs.
He is a competitor who is not afraid to go inside and challenges hitters with his best offerings.
"You have to continually challenge him," said Bryk. "He gets bored. He thrives on the challenge. He is one of those types of kids."
"He is the real deal," Padres' roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "I saw him make his professional debut last year and ever since that day he has been the real deal. He will help the big league club. He has a chance to be something special at the major league level."
ETA: A year of healthy pitching and Carrillo is a lock to make the San Diego rotation by 2008 with a September call up looming. He is a competitor and loves having the ball in his hand. But the other side of the equation could push Carrillo's major league debut all the way to 2009 if he goes back on the disabled list for any prolonged bout. He has the stuff to compete today but needs a few more innings under his belt to make the smooth transition.