Lail Settling In

TRENTON, NJ - When Brady Lail got the call to move up from Tampa to Double-A Trenton, he knew he was heading to a more competitive level of baseball. As such, he struggled a bit, but once he found his rhythm, he’s been almost untouchable. Lail’s numbers from when he started with the Thunder compared to when he finally settled down are night and day.

He initially struggled with Trenton, posting a 5.19 ERA in his first five starts with eight walks in 17.1 innings. Since that time, however, he has done a complete about-face and posted a 0.42 ERA over his next five starts with just three walks in 21 innings pitched.

So why were Lail’s numbers relatively mediocre when he first came up to Double-A? While some would say it was Lail trying to adjust to the more intense level of competition, Lail thinks it was more of a mental problem than a physical one.

“When I first came up here, I was trying to be a pitcher that I’m not, so lately I’ve really clicked in and decide to be the pitcher that got me here,” Lail said. “In my head, I try not to do or think too much when I’m at the mound.”

Once he got settled and adjusted, Lail has been more succinctly shown what he can do. He has an overall ERA of 2.52 and 1.37 WHIP in nine starts and tentotal appearances with Trenton this year. But Lail did admit that there was a noticeable difficulty spike between his time with Tampa and with Thunder, recognizing the maturity levels in Double-A.

“The difference between high-A and Double-A is the maturity level,” Lail said. “You can make a mistake in high-A and get away with it, but here, the batters are fighting on every pitch, trying to get on base. They’re older and they can hit the baseball. My job is to keep the ball down and let my defense do their job.”

While his numbers have been impressive in the past month, his strikeout numbers have gradually decreased; he has just eight strikeouts total in his last five starts. It hasn’t impacted Lail negatively as of yet and Trenton Thunder manager Al Pedrique actually sees it as a positive, and that Lail shouldn’t be worried about it.

“For me, strikeouts are not a concern,” Pedrique said. “I would rather see a guy pitch for contact and have the batter swing away. That’s why you have a defense behind you. Anytime you tell a pitcher that strikeouts are a concern, they’ll go out there and overthrow the ball, especially the fastball. As long as Lail gets ahead of the batter and gets them out, we’ll be happy with that.”

Confidence-wise, Lail has been feeling great. He may not have started off on the right foot, but just like in every other level that he’s competed at, it was a matter of time before he started to pitch to his strengths given the fact that he has a diverse pitching arsenal.

According to Trenton coaches, Lail has a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph, a power curveball that can reach into the low 80s, a changeup and a sinker, but says that his control of his fastball has gotten him the success he’s had for the past month or so.

“My fastball is definitely the pitch that I could command on both sides of the plate,” Lail said. “I was getting ahead of hitters, getting them out early and fast and I can’t thank the defense enough for making plays for me.”

His latest start was by far his best of his season with the Thunder. His performance against the Portland Sea Dogs last Sunday was relatively short, just five innings pitched, but what was outstanding was the fact that he only threw 51 pitches in those five innings.

In those five innings, Lail threw just 31 strikes on those 51 pitches, not a great number compared to his previous five starts, but it never seemed like he was in big danger and got ahead of the count most of the time. He was cool, calm, and collected and in turn, allowed just one hit and walk and threw more than nine pitches in one of those five innings, continuing his recent string of impressive outings as of late.

All in all, Lail has a bright future ahead if he keeps working and producing at this pace. He’s only 21-years-old and already is able to command at least four different pitches effectively. Even though his fastball isn’t the most powerful, it’s always been enough to get him ahead of the count where he can do use his wide array of pitches to keep opponents off-guard.

That kind of control can set the tone early anytime he’s on the mound and give his team a chance to win. The way he shut down the Sea Dogs in his last start was enough to give his team a chance to win, despite Trenton scoring only two runs.

Lail knows what his weaknesses are and tries every day to improve upon them. Pedrique acknowledges his young starter’s success making the Double-A adjustment was due to his diligence and willingness to work and get better.

“He’s such a hard-worker,” Pedrique said. “He’s always trying to find ways to get better, always trying to ask coaches on what he needs to do to get better.

"His confidence and his stuff are great. He’s not afraid to challenge the hitter and use a lot of different pitches. That’s the key for anyone here, if they prepare themselves, they should expect good things when they come out and play.”

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