Name: Cesar Carrillo
DOB: April 29, 1984
Drafted in the first-round of the 2005 draft out of Miami, Carrillo started his professional career in Lake Elsinore rather than at the lower levels.
He posted a 2.79 ERA across his first four outings and was immediately moved up to Double-A Mobile where he went 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA across five starts. Carrillo was moved back down to Lake Elsinore in anticipation of the playoffs and was shelled over his final three outings, allowing 14 runs in 6.1 innings.
The 2006 season saw him begin the campaign in Double-A. In nine starts, the right-hander was 1-3 with a 3.02 ERA. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and struck out 43 across 50.2 frames. A promotion followed.
Just a year removed college and Carrillo was in Triple-A – on the cusp of making his move to San Diego. His Triple-A tenure ended after just 2.2 innings in 2006. Pain in his forearm resulted in the end of his year by early June.
Rest and rehab was prescribed and the right-hander came out to make five starts with Triple-A in 2007 but never appeared to be the same. With 15.2 innings in the books and an 8.62 ERA in tow, Carrillo was shutdown. He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the season.
"Coming back from something like that, it's just building arm strength throughout the summer, and he has done that," former Lake Elsinore pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. "He has accomplished a lot of that. I'm sure he's not back to where he was before the surgery, but that's just going to take a little time."
The 2008 season marked his return – June 15 to be precise. He was sent to the California League and appeared in 15 games, including 14 starts. In his first game, Carrillo surrendered six runs on six hits across one inning of work. Things did improve from there.
Across 57.1 innings, Carrillo went 3-5 with a 5.97 ERA. In 57.1 innings, he allowed 69 hits, walked 33 and struck out 32. It was a year of frustration – and expected upon major reconstructive surgery.
"I saw him pitch over at PETCO and I was a little bit concerned about the command," Padres roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "I saw him pitch two or three times and the first time, the stuff was 88-ish and just kind of ok. When I saw him, I thought he was where he should be as far as the rehab process goes. Then I saw a few games and the game reports were he walked five guys, walked six guys, pitched five innings, four innings, so I was getting a little concerned about it.
"But, I saw him pitch over at PETCO, to me he was, again, right on schedule, right where he should be as far as the stuff was much better. He touched some 94s and I think he only walked one guy in that game at PETCO in five innings and threw the ball very well. I think he's on track. I think the fall league was very good for him."
Over the last three starts, Carrillo yielded five runs over 15 innings – an ERA of 3.00 that showed the progress the year had brought. He walked three over that span after walking four or more in the three previous games.
The leadoff man of an inning had a .483 on-base percentage – putting Carrillo in the hole early and often. He rose to the occasion with a .218 average against with runners in scoring position but there were only so many runners he could keep from scoring.
The Illinois native went on to pitch in the Arizona Fall League after the season, going 1-0 with a 3.79 ERA across 19 innings.
"I think he is doing fine because I gauge the summer on health and the ability to rebound," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He is not back to the Carrillo we knew in A-ball and Double-A before. He is still kind of stuck as far as feel and location. His location and feel just aren't all the way back – not that we expected him to be all the way back."
It was clear that the feel for his pitches was lacking for much of the year, as he walked three or more six times during 2008 – a feat that rarely happened prior to injury.
"His command was a little shoddy at the beginning, but towards the end of the year, his last three or four starts, things started to click for him," Whitehurst said. "He got a better feel for his fastball command, which was the biggest problem, and that just comes with repetition and getting back out on the mound and pitching again."
Ending the year on a lot of positives, however, had to make Carrillo feel like the 2009 season was the year he shows his true form.
When healthy, Carrillo has a heavy mid-90s fastball with terrific sink. It generally sits in the 92-93 mph range and can hit 95 to 96. His two-seamer produces ground ball outs when spotted on the lower corners and he can elevate his four-seam fastball to put hitters away.
"The best I saw him was in the next to last start; he hit up to 94 and he was very sharp," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "At times, we saw the Carrillo before the first time I saw him pitch. I never saw him pitch when he was healthy. Little by little he progressed and three out of the last four starts he was pretty good."
Being able to spot the heater at will has been the challenge. Working from behind, his ability to throw different pitches to get back into the count has been limited.
His fastball is enhanced by a plus changeup that is thrown with the same arm speed. Hitters looking fastball are often caught flat-footed against the changeup – coming in much slower in velocity. He has a terrific feel for the pitch and it was the first offering to come back strong.
His curveball was a solid pitch with plus tendencies prior to injury. Finding consistency with the hook eluded him for much of the year. It is a two-plane curveball that got swings and misses from both lefties and righties prior to the injury.
A tremendous competitor, Carrillo won't accept failure. His work ethic and attitude on the mound exudes confidence – making it simply a matter of time before he returns to the pitcher he was.
Conclusion: The 2008 season was about building up arm strength. Inning to inning was different for Carrillo. He would start off slow, find his groove for two innings, and a tired arm would set in and his command would again waver. A healthy Carrillo can be a dominant pitcher that profiles as a number one or two starter.
Carrillo was on the doorstep prior to injury. His mindset is focused on reaching the majors and there is little that will sway him from the path. This year was a growing one. He can take the lessons and apply them to future outings. The 2009 season will be big. If his command returns, expect him in San Diego by the end of the season – albeit with some limited innings after tossing just over 65 in 2008.
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