The first half of the Florida State League season could not have gone worse for the High-A Mets as…
Coultas Makes the Switch
Making the switch from a position player to a pitcher is a decision a number of young players face when after early years of disappointing offensive productions brings them to a crossroads. For St. Lucie right-hander Ryan Coultas that fork in the road came during the last off-season when after four years being a shortstop, he reached a breaking point in his career.
"I actually called a contact with the Mets to see what was in store for this season and he brought it up to me about switching to pitching, and gave me the option. He told me how things would look from each perspective and it sounded like pitching was the way to go," he explained.
"It was a decision I took very seriously while reflecting on my options and where I was with my career," he continued. "Then a conversation happened in mid-December and I came back a few weeks later and told the club I was ready to make the switch."
Coultas got right to work. Mets' pitching coordinator Rick Waits placed him on a program to build up his existing high-quality arm strength and to get him in shape to pitch. With confidence in his own capability mixed with past experiments with pitching, Coultas comfortably took to his new position.
"I pitched a few innings in college and it seemed to be too much playing shortstop and pitching, and I pitched a few innings in the Cape Cod League way back in 2002 but really it amounted to a total of six appearances at one inning apiece," he detailed.
"But it's gone pretty smooth so far. I'm learning on the fly a little bit, but it's relatively the same game but it's looking at it from a different perspective. I've got plenty of years of experience playing, so it's not a huge change. I'm getting a better command of pitches as I learn all these new things."
When looking at Coultas' 6-foot-3, 180-something pound frame, one could prejudge his velocity, but blessed with a strong shortstop's arm, Coultas can routinely hit 92-94 MPH with his fastball and was even clocked at 95 and 96 MPH a number of times early in the season. That hard fastball gave him a reliable first pitch from which to set up the rest of his repertoire.
"I always had confidence in my arm being a shortstop but I didn't know what to expect of my arm in the beginning," he said.
"I pitched a couple innings last year in an emergency situation and the coaches then told me I was hitting mid-90s a couple of times, and once I had the foundation of my pitching, I expected to go up there and get the velocity I had when I was just chucking it which would help me get the rest of my pitches going.
However, Coultas' experience with throwing a secondary pitch previously included nothing more than tinkering with grips while tossing with his teammates.
"I had to develop a little bit of a curveball, but pretty much every position player has a feel to throw any pitch whether it's a curveball, or a knuckleball, what have you. What I need to do was a get a feel for the mound and really start to throw with serious effort."
"Both my curveball and changeup as of late have been coming around pretty good. Our pitching coach Dan Murray has been helping me out a ton by getting me used to the feel of the pitches and giving me guidance in bullpen sessions, so he's been a great asset to have."
Though the transition has not gone entirely as hoped for Coultas, who owned a 0-4 first-half record and a 5.35 ERA, he understands continued growth at his new position will come with its rough patches but success is determined on consistency and a better understanding his role.
"I enjoy the game from this perspective. I like the game being a little more on my shoulders versus having the one at-bat in a crunch time situation. Now being a pitcher, I've got eight guys helping me out but a lot of it is on me. It's a lot of fun having these riding on me," he explained.
"I need to get better command of my off-speed pitches and I need to figure really what my strengths are. I want to know how and when use my strengths. Once I get that down and fine tune my location, I'll really settle more into my new role."
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