Before Decarr toed the rubber this season on June 26th against the Vermont Lake Monsters, the last time he had thrown a pitch in an official game was August 25th, 2014.
Having not been able to throw in a live game since then had been a challenging course for him as last year was supposed to be his first full professional season. Being out for so long was harsh, and hard process to deal with, given his circumstances.
“It was definitely tough,” DeCarr noted. “Coming into the year, I was preparing pretty hard and was ready to get going in my first full season, but early on my arm just didn’t feel right, and I ended up needing the surgery. It was frustrating, but looking back on it, it’s something that turned out to be alright.”
Since getting back to the mound this year, he has been rediscovering his form. In Extended Spring Training this season he focused on locating his pitches and being in better command as a pitcher.
“I took over a year off basically from throwing in games, so for a little bit I lost the rhythm of my mechanics,” he admitted. “Even now, I’m working on my mechanics every day, trying to get my consistency back with all my pitches, especially my offspeed pitches, my changeup and curveball, and focusing on fastball location down [in the zone] – all the things you need to be successful as a pitcher.”
As he had not faced many hitters since coming back, DeCarr’s transition over that time has been a slow process. Along the way, one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make has been adapting to the new system here in Staten Island.
“You have to try to find consistency and a routine, but you also have to be able to realize that it’s going to change, and you have to change with it. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed; it’s another thing I’m working on, just taking it a day at a time,” he added.
While DeCarr was out last year, two years ago he put together a relatively strong set of outings with one of the Yankees Gulf Coast League teams in his debut season. Over 11 appearances there, he struck out 24 batters in 23 and 1/3 innings, while holding hitters to a .222 opposing batting average. However, he struggled with allowing runs, as his ERA was 4.63.
This season though, with the Staten Island Yankees, he is feeling much better overall and more confident with the way he is releasing his pitches. His previous outing was his best yet to date in 2016, as he pitched five innings, struck out seven, and only allowed one run against Hudson Valley on July 28th.
While the stats line demonstrates how great the outing was, Staten Island Yankees manager Dave Bialas highlighted why in particular DeCarr was so dominant.
“He was locating his fastball down in the strike zone and his breaking pitch was sharp, it didn’t have any loop in it,” Bialas mentioned. “All of his pitches were better, and I like the way he held runners, he was a lot better [than previously]; sometimes he can be a little slow to the plate, but he’s quickened that up now, and he’s making good progress.”
Additionally, pitching coach Travis Phelps approved highly of DeCarr’s performance that night.
“He was aggressive; early in the count he was getting ahead of hitters,” Phelps said of DeCarr’s success. “He was able to locate down and away to his glove-side much better, which is something that he’s been having a little trouble with – getting that extension to glove-side – and he was able to do that pretty effortless.”
Over time, DeCarr’s arm is starting to feel better and regain its pre-surgery stamina. Pitching-wise, he has been developing his curveball, and Phelps really believes it’s coming along nicely.
“It’s tight, sharp, and it has some late bite to it. It has some depth, and it’s getting better every outing, you’re definitely starting to see him gain confidence back in throwing that pitch,” Phelps explained.
Beyond his curveball, DeCarr has working arduously on the progression of his changeup. Oftentimes, many pitchers tend to find that their changeup has improved after the surgery, a lesser-known fringe benefit of the operation.
“He’s got a really good changeup now," Phelps specified regarding DeCarr’s use of the pitch. "Whenever he trusts it and throws it correctly, [it’s excellent]. To his credit, he’s worked very hard to develop that pitch through Spring Training and Extended, and he is really doing a good job. You’re starting to see his confidence grow with that pitch in games, which is going to be a huge plus for him going forward.”
While he didn’t throw many changeups before he had the surgery, he has been working tirelessly on the pitch this season to incorporate it into his arsenal and make it one of his finest.
“[The changeup’s] definitely a pitch I’ve thrown probably a hundred times more in this rehab than I have before [the surgery], it’s definitely a feel pitch…I’m building a good amount of trust in it, and it’s coming along, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” DeCarr commented.
DeCarr followed up his season-best outing on July 28th with another solid effort in Wednesday night's game, tying a season-high with five innings and allowing just one earned run on four hits.
With each outing, DeCarr’s comfort on the mound continues to grow. As the season continues to be a progression for him, Bialas would like to see him continue the growth of his pitches while getting healthier throughout the process.
“Just to go out there, pitch, and stay healthy, that’s the main thing [I want to see]," Bialas highlighted. "He’s making good progression from Extended Spring Training when he wasn’t even throwing in games. He’s on his way to where he wants to be.
"He’s a big strong kid and has good arm speed, so I expect him to be a Big-League pitcher in the future.”