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Waechter Gets His Chances
After making just one rehab appearance at the end of a lost 2006 season, the 6-foot-3 pitcher made the most starts (15) of any member of the vaunted Brooklyn staff—the most promising note of his season. His 69.1 innings pitched ranked second to Dylan Owen, but the amount of time he spent on the mound meant more to Waechter than any statistics he posted.
"My numbers, when I look at them, don't really satisfy me but I learned a lot in my first year. What was more important was having my health and getting the opportunities to go out there," he said.
The 23-year-old got his chances and made the most of them. He rebounded from two ugly June starts in which he recorded two losses and allowed 12 earned runs in 12.1 innings pitched, to post a 5-1 record with a 1.77 ERA in July and August. He attributes the turn around to the support of his coaches and refined focus on the hill.
"Hector and [Cyclones manager] Edgar Alfonzo were behind me as a starter even through my first four starts which were poor. That support really allowed me to turn it around and have a lot of positives this season," he said.
"I think it was a matter of focusing and not over-thinking anymore which allowed to have a good summer. I was trying to outsmart hitters instead of staying with the chess match and the numbers. When I got back to just focusing on each pitch to each batter, things came together," he continued.
What came together was a better understanding of what he tried to do with his pitches—not just the expansion of his repertoire but a better command of each pitch. First off, he needed great control of his high-80s fastball to set up his secondary pitches, his slider and changeup. What it took for Waechter was learning to become a pitcher—as easy as that may sound.
"I got away from being a thrower which is what I was doing in college. I've really begun to pitch more and I think that's made the biggest difference. Working with the veterans and the coordinators was big," he detailed.
For the majority of the season, he attacked hitters with two-plus pitches while he worked on the development of his changeup. In the pitcher-friendly NY-Penn League, he did a good job of limiting damage by keeping his walks down (17 BB allowed) while the opposition hit .240 off him. Yet to keep his momentum going, he knows the speed in which he can get his changeup to be effective, the quicker his game will solidify.
"I really improved on locating my fastball and slider. I worked on developing a changeup, but that's really here or there right now—sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not," he said. "I would hope that when my changeup gets stronger, it will help me get more consistency. When you are going out there with one or two pitches in your bag, it's really easy for a hitter to just tee off. I have to be able to locate all three pitches."
The key to his off-season will be his changeup and continued work on his focus and timing. He proved this season that his elbow is at full strength and that he can be relied on, but now it is about connecting the pieces and staying sharp each start out.
"My winter is going to be working on the changeup and spotting the slider. I really need to improve the command of all my pitches," he said. "I need to fine tune my mechanics and make sure that when I get to spring training, I have my legs underneath me. I really need to bring my mental game more into what I need to do"
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