Only days departed from a 13-game winning streak, the hottest team in the New York-Penn League looks to continue their winning ways with a combination of sharp pitching and timely hitting.
One of the reliable arms in the rotation is Evan DeLuca, a 2009 draftee who had some growing pains in his first season with the Gulf Coast Yankees last year.
Coming into this year's Spring Training, DeLuca was confident this was his season to break out, but an elbow strain after his first start set him back. Still, the confidence remained and DeLuca was able to work hard and get back in the game as soon as possible.
"After the injury, I had to work off of that and work on building health and strength," DeLuca said. "Some of the main things we were working on involved keeping me from drifting towards home plate before my arm got a chance to speed up.
"I was also trying to use my legs more since I got away from that a little and it took away from my velocity."
The New Jersey native also started to work with Staten Island pitching coach Danny Borrell on letting his fastball go, and not trying to hit spots all the time.
"I've been trying to power my fastball in there and not focus as much on pinpointing it and it's already seems to be working," he added.
Borrell, who worked with DeLuca all spring and into the season with Staten Island, also insists there were some adjustments to be made with DeLuca's arm angle and repeating his motion.
"For him it was getting back to repeating his delivery and release point," Borrell said. "Ever since Spring Training we've seen him pitch much better. Being able to repeat it has helped him up here locate all his pitches."
For the 20 year-old lefty, his 6-foot-1 frame needs to be consistent with his motion and attack the hitter with a specific arm angle so it doesn't drop too low. When it does fall low on his delivery, hitters get a better look at his pitch.
"For Evan, we are trying to create a proper angle for him for the fastball," Borrell continued. "When it comes in flat it makes it a little easier on the hitters and for him being a smaller guy it's important to get any angle he can as an advantage."
The 2011 season has been kind to DeLuca and he has a 2-0 record in 4 starts and a 0.90 ERA, including a Wednesday 3-2 win over the Connecticut Tigers in which DeLuca pitched 6 innings of three-hit, no-run ball.
"I came in to this season with high hopes," he said. "I wanted to build off of last season's Gulf Coast and really work on my strength. So it was a big matter of confidence and coming in with an aggressive attitude.
"I've been sticking to my routine, keeping a regiment, getting my workouts in. I've learned to conserve my arm energy and been able to feel good everyday to go out and take the mound."
DeLuca has had some rough spots, of course, and he is eager to dissect them. In his second start against Hudson Valley, DeLuca walked the bases loaded in the first inning but was able to get out of it with minimal damage, an appearance he insists he was able to build on going forward.
"That first inning I walked the bases loaded but got out relatively unscathed and was able to put up zeroes the rest of the and that helped me move on," he said. "I learned that you could set yourself up for success even in bad spots and the confidence plays a big role in that."
DeLuca's strategy is even more apparent as he discusses his approach when he takes the mound for the team, even going as far as to discuss the changeup that he found relatively unreliable in previous seasons.
"Mentally every pitch is important," he insisted. "Moving on from the bad is important, being able to move on to the next pitch, next batter, next inning, if you can keep your team in the game.
"You're in control, so what I've been trying to do is get early contact with fastballs and changeups. I've been throwing a lot of changeups recently and getting ahead in the count.
"I contribute a lot of my success to being able to work out of the bad situations [that] I get myself into."
DeLuca Becoming a Standout
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