Familia Learning On The Job

Familia Learning On The Job

SAVANNAH, GA - Recent trends show that the Mets are not shy about challenging talented, teenage pitchers. That trend continues this season with the Sand Gnats rotation and Jeurys Familia is just one of a number of young hurlers making his mark. In just his second season of work, Familia is quickly learning on the job what it takes to pitch at this level and showing his strengths along the way.

For a young starting pitcher in his first or second year playing professional baseball, a lot of issues can arise in terms of consistency and control, causing troubled outings from time to time.

Despite a rough start that saw 13 hits allowed and six earned runs, Savannah right-hander Jeurys Familia still ranks as one of the premiere arms in the South Atlantic League.

Familia, 19, came into the Mets organization as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 and spent last season in the Gulf Coast League. In 2009, he found himself with his first opportunity to play for a full season ballclub and after nine starts (10 appearances) with the Gnats, he is more than meeting expectations.

"With his stuff, he's been a pleasant surprise," said Savannah pitching coach Mark Valdes.

"I knew he was going to do well because he has good stuff, but his ability to avoid and limit having those bad innings is a compliment to him," Valdes continued.

Sunday afternoons start against the Ashville Tourists was uncharacteristic of Familia (3-4), as his rough performance gave him his fourth loss of the season.

Despite this however, he still ranks as one of the better pitchers in the SAL and in the Gnats young pitching staff that has maintained an impressive 3.21 overall ERA this year.

Familia leads the Gnats with 52 1/3 innings pitched and despite Sunday's outing, has been able to hold an ERA of just 2.92.

"I've been just trying to work hard everyday and practice my pitches in the bullpen in practice in the days leading up to my start so I will be ready," said Familia through Jose Carreno who translated.

"I'm trying to learn from my mistakes and learn the game better to know the hitters I'm facing and how to pitch to them," he continued.

The Santo Domingo, D.R. native discussed the challenge of being a starter in full season ball and how it is equally challenging from a mental and physical standpoint.

"I have to prepare days ahead for every start and come into the game expecting to pitch 11 innings. That way I will be ready mentally to give everything I have for the amount of time I'm pitching."

"We play a lot of games but I try not to let it affect me. I just try to be prepared for every start."

With a fastball that can reach 96 to 97 MPH, he is focusing on his secondary pitches to make him the most well-rounded pitcher he can be.

"I'm not trying to change anything about my fastball but would like to work my slider and changeup and continue to develop them," he said.

Valdes likes how his young ace is progressing with these secondary pitches.

"His breaking ball is looking shaper from when I saw him a few months ago in extended. His changeup is really coming along. He's been throwing it a lot more and he is really getting command of it, both early and late in counts," said Valdes.

At just 19, more starts like his last are sure to come, but with a command of three solid pitches and a focus that extends well beyond his age, Familia looks to continue to turn the heads of scouts as one of the systems most pleasant surprises.

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