Black Lights It Up

Black allowed one earned run on Sunday

Pitchers that stand below the six-foot threshold are often at a disadvantage in terms of their draftability. Even when 5-foot-11 Corey Black dominated hitters in the smaller NAIA this past season, there were questions about his numbers translating to a professional setting. Make no mistake, the booming digits that the 20-year-old right-hander is flashing across the radar gun are nothing miniscule.

Black features a four-pitch repertoire, highlighted by a mid-90's fastball that tops out at 99 mph. While he gains valuable experience on the mound in Staten Island, the speed is also steadily coming along for him.

"That's actually good to hear because the first couple outings I was at 92-94, and I haven't been used to that in a while," Black said after his third start. "So it's good to hear that my velocity is going back up."

The Yankees chose Black, from Faulkner University, in the fourth round of this year's MLB draft. He finished this past season with an 11-2 record, while compiling 96 strikeouts in 88 innings to the tune of a 1.53 ERA, earning him a second-team NAIA Baseball All-American nod.

Black pitched nearly three innings in his debut with Staten Island on July 7 without allowing an earned run. He followed that up with five shutout innings in his second outing, and didn't issue a walk. Black cruised through the first couple innings of his next start but then couldn't retire a batter in the fourth, leaving him with a 3.38 ERA entering Sunday's contest.

"The first three innings I was working in and out pretty well," Black said of his previous start. "Then that last inning, after the first base hit, I kind of tried to do too much trying to hit my spots a little more than I really was. It just got away from me real quick. So they got me out of there when I hit my pitch count."

The brutally hot weather in New York this week may have fatigued Black, although he wouldn't admit that it caused him to unravel.

"I wasn't getting tired," Black explained. "I was trying to make a perfect pitch instead of just doing what I was doing in the first three innings, just throwing it to the glove, instead of trying to overthrow and throw it as hard as I possibly could the whole time."

Staten Island manager Justin Pope expressed those same sentiments, although pitching coach Carlos Chantres saw things differently.

"For the first three innings, he was pretty good, pretty much dominating these guys," Chantres said. "They didn't swing the bat real good off him. He gave up a couple hits, but bloopers and stuff like that.

"In the fourth inning, it looked like he got kind of tired. He scattered the zone a little bit and left some pitches out there and it got to him."

Nevertheless, Black's effectiveness comes from spotting his fastball on either side of the plate. He uses both a two-seam and four-seam fastball to keep hitters at bay.

What hitters don't expect from the fire-baller is his mid-80's changeup, a pitch that most would agree is extremely difficult to master at this level. Meanwhile, Black considers it his "go to offspeed" pitch.

"I throw a curveball, slider, and changeup. My curveball and slider were both working last time, and [today] I threw a lot more fastballs than I really should have," Black said regarding the pitch selection in his last start. "I didn't mix it up as much."

One couldn't help but notice the darting movement from both his breaking pitches despite the limited number of them he threw. His curve registered at about 77 mph throughout the night, although it seemed even slower to hitters that saw a heavy dose of heaters.

"I throw the slider a little bit more just so I can kind of get a swing and miss. The curveball I'll throw earlier in the count just as a show me pitch but I can still throw it for a strike and throw it harder if I need to," Black said.

Because of Black's diminutive stature, it's unclear if he'll be making a living taking the ball every fifth day or if he's better suited charging out of the 'pen. He already went under the knife for Tommy John surgery, but he's fully recovered from it and that's not on his mind at all he says.

It's a matter of whether his frame will hold up over a prolonged period of time. His stuff is so electric that the proposition should excite fans wherever he makes his calling.

"It's more if he can go deep in games. If not, they'll probably make him a reliever," Chantres said when the question was proposed to him.

Chantres is intrigued by Black's pitch arsenal, though.

"I think he's got four quality pitches that will play well in the big leagues," he added.

Black has all the upside you would expect from top-round draft pick. Now it's up to him to demonstrate his incredible talent and polish his craft on the bump, according to Pope.

"Hopefully he can just keep building from that, and his pitch count can keep going up, and have him pitch five or six innings for us every time out. He's just got to keep working hard in between starts and getting his command down, locate his fastball, throwing his breaking ball for strikes," Pope said.

"That's what it is, it's about locating your fastball, commanding your fastball right now and throwing your breaking ball for a strike at this level."

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