In what has evolved into a less publicized rite of passage on the farm, each year certain prospects…
Encinas A Different Pitcher
"I felt really good in Extended [Spring Training] but that's also the time I went down with an oblique strain," he said. "Getting into Staten Island was kind of my rehab program. I was able to extend my innings. [The oblique injury] didn't really affect me there."
While it's true he didn't pitch with pain, the fact is it did affect him in a way. After initially getting some innings under his belt upon his return, whether it was due to the stronger core from doing all of the abdominal work during his rehab or not, he began throwing much harder than he ever had before.
"I just got a burst in July," he said. "I was pitching against Lowell and I felt like the ball was coming out a little slower but everybody was saying I was around 95 mph and somebody told me I hit 97 mph. I didn't want to believe that. I could believe 95 but I don't know about 97 mph.
"My velocity jumped up to 95-96 mph and I was sitting up there for a while. I thought it might just be a one day thing but as the season progressed, the rest of the season I was up there from 94-96 mph. I'm actually glad it happened."
Normally one to sit in the 90-93 mph range prior to the Staten Island season this year, his velocity started tapping some of that potential many scouts had been anticipating.
"Last year and during Extended I'd always be telling the coaches 'why am I not throwing so hard anymore, I feel like I'm always throwing low-90s'. I felt like I had so much more in my arm and finally it just shows up."
Sitting in the mid-90s for the first time in his life was certainly welcomed news. The bad news, however, was that controlling that new-found velocity was very difficult.
"It was because you're not used to it," he admitted. "I'm not used it, I'm used to staying in the low-90s. As you start to throw harder sometimes the ball starts to rise up. That's what happened, as the later innings went on the ball would continue to rise up and it's hard to bring it back down to where you want it to be.
"It's something you have to practice with. Throwing that hard isn't easy to control, you have to practice. That's what we're going to focus on, just making sure that I can keep that ball down because I want my fastball control back to where it was."
Going from averaging slightly more than three walks per nine innings in 2011 to walking nearly five batters per nine innings this year and giving up home runs at more than twice the same pace he did a year ago were just two signs of his uncharacteristically wild tendencies.
While he didn't put up anywhere near the numbers he would have liked to while he worked on harnessing the added power, the fact is he was finally able to control the power fastball at some point this year.
"Instructs -- we're working hard out there and the coaches are working with us and I finally felt [there] that I was able to pinpoint the ball wherever I wanted to go," he said. "It wasn't as if I was holding anything back out there either, I was letting it go.
"It feels really good now and I'm excited for this upcoming season because I feel like I have a lot more control of my curveball now, my fastball is in the mid-90s now, and as long as I can still control that changeup perfectly there shouldn't be a reason why I don't have a good season next year."
Also seeing his curveball get some added velocity, adding a couple of more ticks to get it consistently into the low-80s now, Encinas can't help but marvel where his game has gone over the past few months.
"I feel like a totally different pitcher to tell you the truth," Encinas said. "From where I began until now there's no comparison. The minor adjustments that they made with me and the things they teach me out there, with all of the knowledge that I have now pitching-wise and how I take my game seriously, I'm just a new guy. I'm a new pitcher.
"Compared to when I came out of high school or even from when the season started until now, there's no comparing me to when I was even in Staten Island. This Instructs changed me a little bit as well and it's helped me and benefited me -- I'm just really excited.
"I just want to be able to show everybody out there I'm not going to be stuck in single-A or Double-A, I want to be able to show everybody that I'm here for real. I want to make it and there's no holding back at all."
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