DeCarr Changing It Up

Right-hander Austin DeCarr, the Yankees' third round selection this year and second overall, had a solid debut season in the Gulf Coast League this year, striking out a batter per inning pitched. Known for his plus fastball-plus curveball combination, he's currently down at the minor league complex at Instructs with one goal in mind; improving the changeup.

There were some obvious adjustments for the 19-year old in his first professional season including, but not limited to, learning to play everyday and taking care of his body, not to mention the nuances of facing professional hitters.

"I think it went pretty well," he said. "I learned a lot and got a pretty good feel for the process of pro baseball and being on an everyday schedule. The experience was really good and I think going into this offseason and next Spring Training I'll be ready to go."

Though he was under the 30-day rule where the Yankees don't make major adjustments to a pitcher's game during their initial evaluation period, he still made some minor tweaks to his game this past season at their behest.

He instituted a minor change of beginning his delivery with his hands closer to his belt rather than out in front like he had pitched throughout high school and, already boasting two plus pitches with his fastball and devastating curveball, he quickly began working on developing that all-important third pitch.

"The pitch that I've been working on a lot and it has been improving a lot everyday is definitely the changeup," DeCarr noted. "I was mixing around with a lot of different grips and I finally found one that was working and that I was comfortable with. Down here at Instructional League that's the thing I'm definitely working on the most, the changeup."

He tried the circle changeup, the vulcan grip, and a host of others before finally settling on a two-seam changeup grip.

"It's like a two-seam changeup," he revealed. "Basically I'm just laying my middle finger and ring finger across the two seams, and just thinking about relaxing my index finger and pushing my index finger towards the catcher's mitt just to get the ball to come out with some tumble and run into a righty. I've been working on that the most. It's getting there."

To help aid him getting there with the pitch, the Yankees, notorious for taking away a pitcher's best pitch at Instructs each year in the name of developing one's weakest pitch, has DeCarr putting his plus curveball in the back pocket during this mini-camp.

"The curveball is probably my most developed pitch right now," he admitted. "The fastball and the changeup in particular is definitely the focus over these three weeks, getting more and more comfortable throwing the changeup and continuing to improve my fastball command.

"Obviously that's something everybody is working on, making sure they continue to command the fastball because that's the most important thing in pitching, commanding the fastball.

"I threw [Sunday] and threw all fastballs and changeups. I didn't throw any curveballs. It's good to see the progress it has made but it's still have a lot of room for improvement to make as well."

Still in the proverbial infancy stage of his development at the professional level, DeCarr can't help but feel he has turned his biggest negative, pretty much a non-existent changeup out of high school, into a burgeoning positive rather quickly.

"It's a feel pitch and I didn't throw it nearly as much as I'm throwing it now," he reiterated. "I just wasn't comfortable with it and confident in it. At the pro level as a starter you have to have three pitches going and it's obvious the changeup was the pitch that needed development the most.

"I mean I knew that coming in, they knew that, so I've been working on it a lot everyday. It's like anything, the more you do it the better it's going to become. It's a work in progress and it's getting there.

"It's definitely improved by 100 times. This Spring I'd throw maybe one or two changeups a game just to show it but basically I'd throw my changeups in the bullpen and then in the game it would be fastball-curveball because it's really all I trusted.

"I had no confidence in the changeup. I think the amount of times I threw the changeup for a strike in the Spring season you could probably count on one hand."

He is excited about the progress his changeup has shown recently, however, especially on the heels of his most recent outing in an intrasquad game on Sunday.

"It was good. It was really good. Again, it was just the fastball and the changeup, and I was able to establish the fastball and get ahead. I was able to increase the confidence in the changeup and I threw some pretty good ones. It's definitely something to build off of going forward.

"It's new but it's a world of difference from when I got here in June. In June, if the catcher's threw down the changeup sign it was kind of like 'this is a 50-50 chance of this being a strike' and now when they throw it down I have conviction in it. I'm just relaxing and it's like any other pitch, and I'm not second-guessing it."

Hell-bent on being a viable three-pitch starter in the coming years, he not only knows the importance of developing his changeup but it also excites him to dream of the possibility of adding yet another potential plus pitch into an already solid arsenal.

"It's definitely something to think about but I'm not thinking about the future too much. Right now I'm trying to take it one day at a time and keep my thought process in short increments.

"I'm just taking it one day, one pitch at a time and soaking in everything the coaches have to teach me. Hopefully we make strides over the next few months and years, and put in a lot of work," he concluded.

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