Pinera Making Strides

Pinera has thrown two straight scoreless starts

BROOKLYN, NY - The transition from college ball during a pitcher's first summer comes with rather unknown expectations. That was no different for right-hander A.J. Pinera. Recently, however, Pinera's consistently strong performances have given the Cyclones reasons to expect good things when he takes the ball every five days.

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This season has been a very special one for the Brooklyn Cyclones so far. Not only do they fashion the best record in the league and the best center fielder in Darrell Ciciliani who is on pace to break numerous Cyclones records, but their starting pitchers have been amazing as well. Led by the 1-2 punch of Angel Cuan (5-0) and Chris Hilliard (7-1), the Cyclones starters have a combined record of 24-10. Fellow pitcher A.J. Pinera is joining his teammates success after back-to-back excellent starts.

Pinera has a record of 2-3 with a very slim 1.79 ERA. However, two of those losses came as a reliever in which he gave up three runs in 10.1 innings, so his numbers are not as bad as they seem. Overall, Pinera has given up 40 hits in 45.1 innings, but he does not feel completely satisfied with the way he has thrown this year.

"I still need to improve on my change-up and I haven't really been able to go deep into games yet so far," he said. "I've only thrown six innings a couple times, other than that four or five inning outings because I have been throwing too many pitches, so I still need to just concentrate on throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys."

Pinera was not at spring training because he had just gotten drafted, so he has not had as much time to practice drills and work with the coaches as some of the other guys. However, just like any pitcher would do in the offseason, he worked out his arm to make sure there would be no problems once the season began.

"I came straight out of college, so I had about a week off where I just gave my arm a rest and didn't do too much. Then I started throwing long toss again and pretty much got right back into it. I throw a couple of bullpens and then after that, I was ready to go."

The aforementioned college he went to was the University of Tampa in Florida, a very notable baseball program, where he absolutely thrived. This year, he compiled an 8-1 record with the Spartans while walking just 16 batters in 65.2 innings, and striking out 65 batters in 15 appearances. Last year as a junior, he struck out 41 men in 47 nnings of work.

Before going to Tampa, Pinera spent two years at Hillsborough Community College. He missed all but two games his freshman year because of injuries, but came back strong the following year. He went 6-3 with a 2.90 ERA in his sophomore year and recorded 58 strikeouts in 71.1 innings. After college ball, the Mets selected him in the 18th round of this year's draft and he was assigned to the Cyclones.

As a member of the Cyclones, Pinera has noticed a difference in the way the game is played when compared to the amateur ball he played in college. He has reminded himself to stick to the basics when making adjustments to this level.

"Really, just throwing a lot of strikes. It's harder because these guys are getting used to it like we are, so a lot of them are just getting introduced to the wooden bat. You just have to throw strikes and hit your spots. It's still pitching but you just have to throw strikes, go after people and try to get a lot of ground balls and things like that," Pinera explained.

Overall, Pinera is very excited with the opportunity he has been given and will do whatever it takes to show the Mets they made no mistakes in drafting him. His time with the Cyclones is like nothing he has ever experienced before and he is having a lot of fun just being one of the guys.

"I love it. I think it's been great. They treat you a lot more like a man here. You're a pro baseball player, so this is your job. You need to work, you need to do your running, your working out – all that kind of stuff. I've loved it personally. All the guys have been great and it's been a good experience so far."

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