Ames Establishing Consistency

Among the bevy of high-round draft picks from last year's draft is right-hander Jeff Ames, who has quietly impressed in Hudson Valley at the top of the Renegades rotation. While both he and pitching coach Kyle Snyder admit that the 21-year-old still has much to learn, Ames has nonetheless proven to be a remarkably consistent pitcher so far in his young pro career.

At the top of a pitching rotation, it is always good to have consistency. Jeff Ames has been exactly that for the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Ames, the 42nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, was the Renegades' opening day starter and has perhaps been the most consistent and dependable member of the squad since.

"He's going out and he's giving us an opportunity to win every day he's taking the mound," pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. "I've been very impressed so far with what I've seen."

Ames, a 6'4" right hander from Vancouver, Wash. has made five starts so far this season, going five innings in all but one game. With 24 innings pitched, the 21-year-old out of Lower Columbia College has surrendered just three earned runs (eight total) for an ERA of 1.13. He has not given up more than one earned run in a start this season, and has recorded 23 strikeouts compared to only 16 hits and 7 walks.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Ames said. "I'm not trying to think about things too much, just go out there and throw a lot of strikes and use all my pitches effectively."

Ames throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup. He considers the slider to be his "out pitch" and thinks the changeup is the one that needs the most work.

"His fastball sits 95-92 with very good four-seam life," Snyder said. "The last few games, he actually involved a two-seam fastball a little bit so there are two different looks to his fastball. His slider sits at 85-88, changeup's 80-82 so there's three different pitch speeds. Three different angles, but he's capable of throwing strikes with all three of them."

This year in Hudson Valley has been a more successful experience for Ames than last season in Princeton was, his first professional season. His arm feels fresher than it did after being drafted out of college, and the results are showing on the field.

Still, Ames has a positive view of his 2011 season, where batters hit .317 off him and he posted a 7.12 ERA in 30.1 innings. There were still the positive signs of a 39-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

"It was a rough year," Ames said, "I was battling a long season in college and I had never thrown that many innings, ever. I came into it with a pretty tired arm, I had some really good games but I had some games where I got hit around. I think it was good for me to have to deal with that kind of adversity. I was actually happy that I had the season that I did."

That positive attitude and maturity has been noticed, as Snyder described Ames as an "old soul."

"He's beyond his years I think in terms of what it takes to prepare himself," Snyder said, "and it's showed with his production."

Being drafted in 2011, it is easy to make a connection with fellow Renegade Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri was drafted 24th overall, while Ames was taken 18 picks later in the supplemental part of the first round. While the 19-year-old Guerrieri may get more of the attention, it has been Ames who has been the rock of Hudson Valley's rotation through the first month of the season. Ames says that the two, having been selected in the same round of the same draft, do have a bit of healthy competition.

"I think we both just really want to see each other do well," Ames said of his relationship with Guerrieri. "Obviously there's going to be some competition, but I think it's like a friendly competition between the two of us. I know if I do good he wants to go out and do good too, so there's always going to be that little bit of a battle between us. It's a friendly thing. I think it's a good thing between us."

Ames is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday at home against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Given his performance so far, we should expect more of the same. But there is still plenty to work on, and Ames understands that he has a long way to go.

"My changeup is the number one thing, but really working on everything," Ames said. "I'm at a low level for a reason and I still have a lot to learn."

Snyder has been impressed with the adjustments Ames has made already, and is continuing to work with him on more improvements to his delivery.

"He's pounding the bottom of the zone really well," Snyder said. "He's done a very good job of working on his delivery, we introduced a little bit of a different grip on his slider that he's taken very well to. He challenges hitters with three pitches. Just in terms of his direction, we've firmed up his right side a bit. But overall, pretty much just staying where his is right now. That's a big part of pitching in terms of this level. In his development he's establishing some consistency."

Consistency. What more can you ask for from Ames?

Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.


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