For the 23-year-old left-hander, this season has been a test. The St. Lucie reliever came off a…
Camacho at a New Level
Although effective versus right-handers, Camacho still needs to fine tune his trade against lefties – his main goal of 2007. Currently, he boasts a stingy .222 batting average against righties. Yet, flip the hitter around and the defense must get on its heels. Lefty opposition rakes off him at a .407 clip. Like most young pitchers, he struggles with his command inside. When he struggles, he leaves balls out of the plate to lefties, thus the inflated average.
"It's more of showing them I can throw the ball inside without any fear and with consistency. Once I start throwing inside everything else opens up for me. It's a matter of telling them to back off the plate and then I can expand the strike zone," said Camacho.
How he manages to iron out his deficiency versus lefties could spell his fate. It's plain to see with current big league relievers, if they cannot retire lefties, there is no room for them on the roster.
The key to his success will be the maturity of his changeup. He already throws it with deceptive arm speed, and the pitch hangs in the high-70's. Yet most importantly, it will be his ability to throw it for strikes when behind in the count. As a pitcher without an overpowering fastball, he will rely on his mixing of his secondary pitches, especially that changeup.
"I want to develop my changeup to the point where I can throw it anytime I want," he said.
Paired with his changeup, he looks to keep hitters off-balance and mix in his slider. He can work the pitch on the inner-half to righties, yet the pitch has a tendency to fade back over the plate to lefties. Camacho admits the pitch needs more work.
"(My slider) has been erratic lately," he said, "I also need to not aim as much when throwing it to lefties and just trust my movement. I've been toying with some new grips for it but it still has room to grow. Once my slider really develops to where I'm comfortable with it all the time, I should be ok."
One his last determining factor is his simple muscle memory. For Camacho, the consistencies of his pitches rely on his body control. He allows his head to get out in front of his body which prevents him from finishing pitches with authority. When his upper body swings open he not only loses velocity, but he loses any chance of the ball traveling where he wants it. It is the reason why he fights to keep his slider on the inner half to lefties. It is an issue the coaches closely monitor.
It is not all a work in progress for Camacho. His control is an extremely valuable trait. In 26 1/3 innings pitched this year, he has issues just six walks, three in just his last two appearances (he went nine straight appearances without a walk). His control comes back to his changeup. The more he gets ahead of hitters with the off-speed pitch, the more he can mix in that fastball and challenge hitters into quick at-bats. If he were to start hitters off with his fastball and the nibble with his secondary pitches that is how he will find himself issuing many free passes.
Lastly, as for many young hurlers, it is about keeping the ball down in the zone. In St. Lucie this season, he averaged nearly four groundballs for every flyball. That number has dropped significantly since his call up to New Orleans. He currently averages just about 1.25:1 groundballs-to-flyballs. A telling sign of success that the coaches harp on him.
"I'm just trying to stay down in what we call the 190 zone – knee, calves and below. I like to use my two-seamer more and get guys to pound balls into the ground. The strikeouts will come but my main focus right now is getting groundballs," Camacho explained.
His current position with New Orleans shows that coaches and observers like what they see of the young lefty. He is close to that next level but still requires rounding out rough areas of his game. Despite early trouble, his success at every level to this point, leaves little reason to believe why he cannot continue the trend in 2007.
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