Degano Ready Already

Jeff Degano, this year's second round pick, was limited to just 21 innings in the Yankee organization after a full college season this year, his first after Tommy John surgery. Not invited to Instructs because of the innings limit, he says he is already ready to get back out there after getting his feet wet at the professional level this year.

He posted a combined 3.80 ERA between the Gulf Coast League and New York Penn League this year, striking out 22 batters in 21.1 innings in his debut season.

"I think it was a productive season," Degano said. "I definitely learned a few things coming over from college to professional baseball.

"I thought they gave me a really good experience to play in the GCL and then up to Staten Island in short-season A[ball] where it was a college-based league. It kind of taught you pitch control does matter when you go up to different levels and to be able to command and spot up every pitch you have to get outs."

The limited innings he received between the two levels was a designed plan. He had Tommy John surgery back on May 23, 2013, and this past season was his first full season back from the injury.

"Yeah I think I ended up at 100 innings in college," he said. "Especially coming off of Tommy John surgery there was really no reason to extend me. They had a little bit of a monitor on me where I'd limit my innings and pitches, and just get my feet wet in pro ball so that next year I can come back strong and hopefully have a great season for them."

He made his initial return from Tommy John in a summer league and pitched a little bit in fall ball prior to his last season at Indiana State, and then obviously again for the Yankees. It basically means he hasn't had any real extended time off in quite some time.

"Yeah it's really arduous training for Tommy John. You've got to do your rehab, strengthen everything back up, range of motion, and build yourself back up with your body type because usually you're pretty stationary for the first little while.

"It was all about having a productive offseason when I had [Tommy John surgery] so this will be the first time in years where I'll have some time to relax."

Though his exposure to professional baseball thus has been both brief and limited, he says it was more than enough to get a feeling of what is needed going forward.

"More of what pitches to throw to certain hitters -- I never really had too much of a changeup and never really knew when to throw it," he said. "As I got more accustomed to pro ball, being able to know what hitter is looking for what, you notice more about pitching sequence; if his hands are loading late, you kind of know how to throw to the guy. Our pitching coach really helped us to learn when to throw certain pitches in the right areas."

Pitch-wise Degano, who sits mostly in the low-90s with his fastball, quickly realized that to have to the kind of success he wants to have at the professional level he will most assuredly need to beef up his changeup.

"Coming into Tommy John I really had no changeup whatsoever," he admitted. "It's still a work in progress but I started messing around with it and getting that grip that I really like. That's going to be one of my main focuses in the offseason, come back with a strong changeup and it being my best pitch is what I'm hoping for.

"I really started to get a feel for it in the middle of pro ball. My pitching coach, Butch [Henry], really helped me out a lot with that. He got me to have a better grip and kind of understand when to throw it and how to throw it. I think that really helped out a lot."

He says his changeup has come a real long way in a short period of time and he already likes the grip he's now using, the arm speed he has with the pitch, and the fade he gets with it. Just like any other pitcher though, he would like to develop more consistent command of it.

"You have to throw a changeup because they're not going to swing at your curveball if it's not in the zone. That was kind of a wakeup call.

"In college you're able to throw pitches down in the zone in the dirt and they were swinging at it because they were pressing more it seemed like. That was a big change in how I learned to pitch in pro ball.

"I think as long as your control comes along and develop that changeup -- that changeup is going to be a really big pitch to have in your repertoire, being able to throw it for strikes and get more outs. Hitters will respect you a lot more when you have a changeup like that and can't sit on one pitch. Keep them guessing basically."

If it sounds like he believes there is still some considerable upside to his game it's because he does. He'll be a full two years out of his Tommy John surgery entering his first full professional season next year and he's already chomping at the bit to see how much better he can get.

"I'm excited already. I already want to start training. It's one of those things where your dream finally came true and you want to hold on to it as long as you can and go as far as you can, and challenge yourself.

"That's the thing with pro ball, you can constantly challenge yourself and hopefully move up the ranks as far as possible, and hopefully pitch in the Bronx. I'm ready to go already," he concluded.

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