German has a 0-3 record after four starts entering Wednesday's game against Harrisburg but has an ERA of 2.95 having pitched a modest 21.1 innings. The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic has already struck out 22 batters en route to two quality starts already this season.
Consistency is something that German preaches day in and out on the mound and said was his main focus throughout Spring Training. In all four of his starts this season, German has allowed three runs or less, which explains his sub-3.00 ERA.
When talking about his first few starts this season, German didn’t think he pitched badly, but not at the level he believes he can reach.
“At first, it was rough, I was a little inconsistent,” German said prior to Wednesday's start. “Now I’m making better adjustments the more I pitch. Even in that first start, towards the end, I was getting better and throwing better pitches down the stretch.
"For future starts, I’ll be able to locate the strike zone a lot better now that I’m getting used to this level. That first start wasn’t good nor bad, but I’ve been able to learn more about myself in these past few starts and I’m applying what I’m learning moving forward.”
Thunder pitching coach Jose Rosado also said he doesn’t believe there’s any residual damage or negative effect on German’s pitching skills. He did say that he’ll need to keep getting more innings and work on his fastball command.
“As a pitching coach, you always want to see how your pitchers fair at the start of the season,” Rosado said. “Initially, there were a couple of things to work, mainly his fastball command. I think that’s going to be the key for him this season. Once he has that fastball command in a good place, everything else will start to fall into place.”
German’s fastball has been sitting nicely in the mid-to-high 90s in terms of velocity and has been his main pitch throughout most of his career. German said that if there’s one pitch that he wants to work on a lot as the season progresses is his changeup. Described by German as secondary pitch, he believes mastery of that pitch will put him on another level.
Rosado said his changeup has been solid early on and thinks that, so long as he continues to pitch the way he has been so far this season, he’ll get even better as he starts heat up throughout the summer.
“I think his progression is good,” Rosado said. “He could still continue to develop certain things such as his changeup. He’s been showing some good signs, but it’s sometimes tough starting out especially in the cold where we started in Erie and Portland.”
Two years removed from Tommy John surgery and German said he is 100 percent healthy with no issues. German said he just needs to keep pitching and will get better the more he’ll pitch in Double-A.
After missing the 2015 season because of surgery, German spent very brief stints in Tampa and Charleston in Single-A where he had five starts in each stop in 2016. After finishing the 2016 season with a 3.08 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP, German got the green light to go to Trenton to start this season.
German said he has witnessed a massive improvement in the quality of opposing batters compared to the ones he has faced in lower levels of the Minor Leagues.
“I’ve noticed that these batters are far different from the ones in the lower levels,” German said. “For starters, these [Double-A] batters don’t swing at everything you throw at them and so not only do I have to work on that, but also I have to work with a smaller strike zone. It makes me think a lot more about every single pitch I throw because you have a lot more to deal with.”
Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell said he has noticed an improvement in German’s pitching not just in each start, but also in the middle of every start.
“[German] has been pitching really well for us so far,” Mitchell said. “In the first couple of starts, he kind of struggled a little bit, but started throwing better later in those games. I don’t think he’s really had a single bad start all season long. He’s a big piece of what we’re trying to do this season.”
German’s goal is to eventually reach the Major Leagues, but in order to do that, he said needs to keep being consistent.
“The one thing that I need to keep working on is consistency,” German said. “In order for me to reach to the Major Leagues, I need to be consistent every time I go out there. It is a brand new experience being here in Double-A, and I’m excited about playing with the organization. Little by little, I’ve been learning a lot about the team and how they function and I’m enjoying it.”