"I think he has started showing some signs of maturity and feeling comfortable in the States," Tampa manager Al Pedrique said prior to DePaula's latest outing on Tuesday.
Pedrique noted that DePaula has been making the adjustment to playing in the United States, a much different atmosphere than he was used to in the Dominic Republic. During the offseason, he worked on getting stronger in order to be able to play against the advanced players he met last season in Tampa.
"I feel stronger this year compared to last year because I understand better the things I need to do to prepare better," DePaula said through the help of a translator. "The running, the conditioning, the weight programs, I take it very seriously now. Anytime I work with the pitching coach on the bullpen, I know that is the time to work on my mechanics."
Mechanics has been a large focus for DePaula in his time with pitching coach Danny Borrell over the past two years. Borrell, DePaula's pitching coach in Charleston last season too, has seen improvements in DePaula's control and command. His fastball and changeup have been strong, and the two have been working on his slider.
"That is his pitch to work on," Borrell exclaimed. "But he has been great with it and he has thrown it for strikes. Specifically it is that, but fastball command is always a big one [too]."
DePaula also feels that the slider is the pitch he needs to work on the most going forward.
"In the past, my slider was too flat and I did not have a good command [of it]," DePaula said. "I have been trying to get a better angle when I throw the slider and throw it more in the strike zone as well."
DePaula thinks the key to his improvement is about focusing on mechanics and building his confidence on the mound. The competition in Tampa was more intense than hitters he faced in Charleston last season.
Part of his struggle his first season in Tampa last year, also his first season in the United States, came from realizing the hitters were better and smarter than those he had thrown against before.
"I think he controls his emotions a little bit better now," Borrell stated. "Last year when he first got to Charleston that was the first time he has ever thrown a baseball at night. So there are a lot of firsts for him. His control is much better now."
New scenery is definitely an element that threw DePaula in his first season in Tampa from what Pedrique has noticed. He hopes to see the pitcher improve on his consistency this season as he has learned to focus more and become more self-assured.
"This is his second year in the States," Pedrique ssaid. "Last year it was tough for him to pitch under the lights in front of the crowd."
Even though it is still early in the season, DePaula, who has allowed one earned run or less in his last three outings, feels much stronger than he did last season. Coming in to this year's Spring Training, he knew he could be a better pitcher from his past experience.
"I want to keep my concentration level the same the whole time," DePaula said. "Last year I had days where I was in trouble and I would lose focus. Now I am trying to maintain that throughout all the time I am out there pitching."
With strong pitches and rising command both physically and mentally, expectations for his future are set high. Small nuances in this new style of baseball will be the point of focus in his development this season.
"There is no reason he can not dominate like he did in Charleston last year. The numbers may not be the same, but I expect growth in all areas," Borrell said. "Physically, obviously the tools are there. He just needs to keep growing on maturity level."
Expecting Growth For DePaula
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