Ben Julianel Keeps Things In Perspective

Ben Julianel is the Thunder's 25-year old lefty out of the bullpen who has pitched with much success through the first six weeks of the season. After getting a cup of coffee at this level last year, he spent most of the season at Single-A Tampa. Julianel was acquired by the Yankees in 2003 along with Thunder teammate Justin Pope from St. Louis for Sterling Hitchcock and has been sterling ever since.

He was rated by Baseball America as the 26th best prospect in the Yankees organization at the start of 2005 and has the potential to be a solid left-handed reliever in the Major Leagues should he get his chance. Julianel though is unconcerned about getting a trip to Columbus anytime soon though as he believes he needs to worry about other more pressing circumstances.

"I haven't even thought about it. My job is to go out there when I'm called upon and throw strikes. I can't control whether I'm getting moved up or moved down and I don't worry about what I can't control," said Julianel.

Throwing strikes is something Julianel has to do to be successful and when he doesn't do it, he pays dearly. The only time all season when Julianel failed to throw strikes was his only poor outing of the year against Norwich. In that outing he gave up five runs and three walks in two thirds of an inning. Julianel doesn't know if the jump from Single-A to Double-A is the toughest in baseball, and he isn't even sure if his time here last year contributed to his success this year.

"It's hard to say ‘knowing' because I've been here such a short time." said the Thunder lefty.

Julianel pitched better than his 5.68 ERA would attest during his six outings in Trenton last year, but was sent back to Tampa to hone his skills, which he did to an uncanny degree. He posted a 1.64 ERA after June 1st for Tampa including a 0.64 ERA in August as the Yankees Florida State League team solidified its Championship run. More beneficial to the left-hander than anything though was his time in the Arizona Fall League this past winter, where he learned how to pitch to lineups where there were no breaks.

Julianel believes, "The best thing for me was to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this winter. I was very grateful for the chance to pitch to lineups where every hitter is a prospect. Not saying that in Tampa they weren't, but not every guy you face in Single-A is going to make the Big Leagues. In the Fall League, I expect every guy there to be in the Major Leagues in the next few years. That's why they're there."

This experience pitching to hard-hitting lineups where there are no breaks has paid off for Julianel this year. Julianel has made 16 appearances this year and opponents are hitting a paltry .206 against him. Despite his infinitesimal opponents batting average, he has forced himself into the mindset of being in Trenton all year. Furthermore, he believes that getting into a mindset centered around promotions and statistics might mar his development.

"I have myself in the mindset that I'm going to be here all year. Pitching coach Dave Eiland and I sat down and he has really helped me put things in perspective," said Julianel.

Perspective that allows him to keep in mind his goals as well as his outings. As his bullpen mate Charlie Isaacson says, "It's good outings that create good stats."

While Julianel may need his changeup to be successful, it is this perspective that allows him to remain focused on the mound even when he may not have his best stuff. "You can't get rattled and think you have to be perfect," says the Thunder lefty. He didn't get rattled in the ninth against Harrisburg when he allowed four of the first five hitters he faced to reach base, but managed to preserve the Thunder advantage and the win as the Thunder improved to two games over .500 for only the second time all year.

The fact that Juilanel is a left-handed pitcher certainly helps his case to make the Major Leagues with the dearth of good situational lefties. That said, he is a bona fide prospect with three solid pitches in his arsenal to subdue even the mightiest hitters in the Eastern League and probably anywhere. His three-pitch repertoire even leaves open the possibility that he may be converted to a starter with "stuff" to make it through a lineup multiple times. Julianel's combination of talent, perspective, and natural born advantage make for an ideal candidate to make a major league roster in the non-so-distant future.

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