The season did not start well for the Nick Pasquale or the Carolina Mudcats. As a pitcher with losses with a 1-6 record hurling for a team with one of the worst marks in minor league baseball, the struggles of Pasquale and the Mudcats mirrored each other.
Carolina’s recent surge into first place in the Carolina League Southern Division began with an 18-9 record in July. Pasquale went 3-1 in the month, responding with victories in three straight starts after a defeat in Frederick, and earned Carolina League Player of the Week honors in July 30.
Pasquale came to Carolina from Lake County having made only one start on the season. The right hander feels the improvement he has made since a rough beginning in high-Class A ball boils down to adding pitches to his repertoire.
“When you get ahead of hitters, you can mix it up a little more,” Pasquale said. “I have been developing my off-speed pitch, which I have been working on all year, which has been the big key for me. When you get ahead of hitters, you can mix it up a little more. I feel a lot more comfortable with all of my off-speed pitches which I think in turn has helped me with my results.”
Carolina manager Dave Wallace likes how Pasquale has improved in his time in Zebulon—particularly with his approach.
“His ability to challenge guys early in the count is a key,” Wallace said. “If he gets ahead in the count he can mix it up. He is a sinker-slider guy who pitches to contact. If he gets ahead, he can get them to miss-hit it. That is what he has been doing lately.”
Despite his struggles early in the campaign with Carolina, Pasquale maintained an even-keeled approach that he feels is the best way to success.
“For me, when you throw a good game, you have to check yourself so you don’t relax,” Pasquale said. “When I throw, I have a bad game, I cannot wait to get back out there.”
After coming to Zebulon from Lake County, Pasquale had to rebuild his arm strength. As a reliever for the Captains, the native of Walnut Creek, Ca. had a 2.18 ERA in nine appearances.
“I started in the bullpen this year and I threw one, two, and even four innings in one game,” Pasquale said. “You just have to build the arm. The more you throw, the more it will build. Now, to go five, six, or seven innings is no real problem at all.”
Pasquale has already shined as both a starter and a reliever in his brief professional career. The righty does not have a preference to where the team uses him.
“I like both, honestly,” Pasquale said. “Starting is nice, you get the routine. You know what you are doing every day. You can develop more as a starter because you get to pitch longer and have the side throwing. Reliving is a lot of fun too. You come in with runners on and you just get that adrenaline rush and that is fun.
Wallace likes Pasquale as a starter.
“He came up originally to make a spot-start,” Wallace said. “He has pitched well and proves he belong here. He is good teammate. He is not one of those guys that thinks he has it all figured out. He likes to learn.”
After committing to play college baseball at North Carolina State University out of Diablo Valley College, Cleveland drafted Pasquale in the 20th round of the 2012 Major League Draft. He never looked back and is excited for the future, both for himself and the Tribe.
“With what Francona did in Boston, signing Swisher, I and some of the new guys were already excited since it was our first spring training,” Pasquale recalled. “It is not going to be a drastic change, but it will happen slowly but surely. I feel like we have great coaches at every level and a good bunch of guys.”
Pasquale hopes to make it to the mound on Progressive Field one day, but he is not looking too far ahead.
“That would be awesome,” Pasquale said. “That would be a dream coming true. Baby steps, though. I am just trying to develop myself now and get better and consistent as I can to get myself the best chance to get there. I want to be consistent enough to make comfortable with me being there.”
Photo: Chris Baird/IndyWeek