Coming to Triple-A Sacramento from Double-A Richmond can be a tough transition for Giants pitching prospects. After going 4-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 11 starts with the Flying Squirrels, Andrew Suarez became a River Cat in the Pacific Coast League, a pitcher’s nightmare.
“Eastern League had really good hitting as well, but these guys are really advanced,” Suarez said on the biggest difference from Double-A to Triple-A. “You can't have the same sequence with them because they'll know what's going on. And some of the parks here, the ball just flies.”
Through his first six starts with Sacramento, Suarez was 3-3 but owned a 4.98 ERA. Starting July 22, Suarez began dealing, dropping his ERA in each of his next eight starts. The biggest change came from being all ears with veteran catcher Tim Federowicz.
“Fed was catching me one game and he told me I should use my four-seam (fastball) more with two strikes,” Suarez explains. “I've been doing that and it's actually helped my curveball more to get more swing and misses.”
Suarez has seen a huge spike in success with his curveball simply using it more often. There hasn’t been any change in grip or arm angle. Instead, the lefty’s confidence keeps rising from repetition.
Prior to the 2017 season, he hardly even threw the pitch.
“The catchers love it here though,” Suarez said. “I throw it a lot here and it's actually helped me a lot. I'm getting a better feel for it.”
On the mound, Suarez’s mindset has always been to pound the zone. Between the two levels he has issued 41 walks this season and wants to limit that number. But, the Giants have challenged Suarez to keep the ball more off the plate in two-strike situations.
As of late, he’s taken that to heart and has been rewarded for doing so.
“I'm not really afraid to challenge hitters. I get criticized all the time that I throw too many strikes,” Suarez says. “I think they just want me to extend the zone.
“I think that's why I haven't been giving up too many hits lately and getting more strikeouts.”
In his latest start Monday, Suarez allowed one earned run over five innings. Since his promotion, Suarez is now 6-5 with a 3.19 ERA in 14 appearances — 12 starts — for Sacramento. With one start left in the 2017 season, San Francisco isn’t even on his mind yet.
“Hopefully I can carry this momentum over into next year and spring training and just see what happens,” Suarez said on his future with the Giants.