SAVANNAH, GA - As the calendar flips to July, the Sand Gnats made a number of roster moves that…
Church Progressing Quickly
"It's a great opportunity to be where I'm at right now," said Savannah reliever John Church about the chance to play for the Low-A affiliate just a little over month after being drafted by the Mets.
"I just want to learn to locate my pitches better and help my team win wherever I'm given the chance to play," Church said.
Church was drafted in the 23rd round of this year's First Year Player draft out of West Florida and has quickly made an impression in Savannah with both fans and coaches.
"When he came here I had no clue who the kid was and even though he hasn't been here long, I can tell that he is a true competitor," said Savannah pitching coach Mark Valdes about the 6-foot-3, 235 pound right-hander.
"I like the way he goes about his business. From the second he walked in here, he was very cordial and respectful and that goes a long way," Valdes added.
Valdes admitted that it was still too early to evaluate the pitches of his new rookie but said that he has made an immediate impact out of the bullpen.
"Right now he's throwing the ball ok for us, he really is. I can see already that he has a strong fastball with good movement that has some sink on it and that's a good thing to have. We can use a ground ball pitcher in our bullpen," Valdes said.
After a rough debut on July 3 where he allowed two earned runs on four hits, Church has been virtually unhittable as of late, as he has is has not given an earned run in his last six appearances.
His recent success has earned him a 2.08 ERA in seven appearances with his first full season team of his professional career.
Church is especially impressive against left-handed hitters, who are just hitting for a .200 average off the Lake Whales, Fla. native. Additionally, he has a perfect ERA against southpaws, as he his two allowed runs this season came off of righties.
Coming into the organization, Church possessed a large repertoire of pitches, including a moving fastball that can reach the low 90s and a slider that he can consistently keep low in the zone and on the edge of the plate. He also possesses a decent curveball and along with many other players in their early professional careers, says that his changeup will be project that he will continue to improve.
"In college, I could throw my fastball by guys but you can't do that with most guys here. I just want to work on my location," said Church. "My mechanics have always been really good but my location is the thing that I want to work on the most in my transition from college to pro ball."
"I didn't throw my changeup much in college but it's definitely something I want to work on here. It's especially effective against wooden bats so it's a pitch that I want to continue to improve and mix into my appearances."
After being drafted on June 12, Church quickly found himself diving in head first into the system, making his debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones at the end on June and made one appearance there before his promotion to fill in some gaps in Savannah's bullpen after Josh Stinson moved on to St. Lucie.
Church spoke about the differences in playing for the short season Brooklyn and the high-intensity atmosphere he faced there, compared to the slower lifestyle down in Savannah.
"Being in Brooklyn was definitely what I would think pro ball would be. The fans there are passionate and they love that team. There definitely seems to be more pressure there, not in a bad way but just pressure to perform," he said.
Church addressed that he is excited about the opportunity to be playing in Savannah and wants to make the best of his current situation.
"I still get nervous on the mound. I've been that way ever since college, but now it's a good kind of nervous and although I've only been [in Savannah] around two weeks, I feel comfortable playing here and I just want to make the best out of this chance."
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