Enns Back To The Pen

Enns is proving to be a dominant reliever again

TAMPA, FL - Left-hander Dietrich Enns was one of the more dominant relief pitchers last season when he posted a 0.61 ERA with 69 strikeouts in a little more than 44 innings coming out of the Charleston bullpen. He was tried as a starter after being promoted to high-A Tampa last year but it seems he is back in the bullpen now trying to find that dominance once again.

Enns used Spring Training this year to try and refine the areas of his game that could possibly allow him to find that first-half magic he had last season.

"It went pretty well," Enns said. "I just worked on getting my arm back into shape, getting everything going, but it was good.

"I was working on kind of throwing my slider for a strike [and] also kind of throwing a cutter as well. I think I could have gotten ahead of guys a little bit better, throwing the ball down the zone a little bit better."

"D' was not bad in Spring Training," Tampa pitching coach Danny Borrell added. "He was getting back into swing of things. He was really working on the cutter, slider, curveball, so just really trying to refine what he had going.

"Specifically he was working on cutter, slider, trying to differentiate between the two and that was tough for him. We've, since then, made some good adjustments to that."

Enns, known more as a fastball-changeup guy when he was first drafted, saw significant improvement with his breaking ball last year. However, while there was some much needed power added to his slider, throwing it consistently for strikes was and still remains a developmental mantra of his.

"So far the fastball has been good," Enns said. "The change[ups] have been good. I'm still working on the slider a little bit harder and throwing it more and more often.

"The biggest thing I want to work on is just getting ahead of guys and throwing the ball down the zone is my biggest key."

Like most young pitchers in the minor leagues, Enns is trying to mix in all three pitches and trying to get to the point where he can throw all three of them for strikes in any count.

"I think he worked on keeping the ball down," manager Al Pedrique said of Enns in Spring Training, "being able to throw a breaking ball for a strike, use the changeup in fastball counts, [and] be able to mix all three pitches and be able to work both sides of the zones, in and out.

"I would say the second pitch, the breaking ball, needs the most work. He's done a good job with the changeup. The life on his fastball is good. His second pitch is the one he needs to be more consistent with."

While keeping him in the starting role would make arguably make the most sense since that is where he could get more innings and more time to work on things, it is difficult to argue with the varying degrees of success in the two roles thus far into his career.

Enns essentially started the first two games this season [one was a four-inning stint that came in a piggy-back situation in the first game of the season] but has since transitioned back to the short-inning reliever role.

Enns himself isn't quite sure what role the future has in store for him -- he has shown in spurts that he can be capable in both -- but at least for now the coaching staff wants to keep him in the bullpen for the time being.

"Right now [we're] just trying to get him back into the swing of things," Borrell said. "We got him back in relief and he's going to be pitching out of the bullpen for a little bit. Right now, we are just trying to get him back into a routine and making sure he's ready to answer the bell.

"I like to see him gain more experience. Just getting out there and throwing pitches, that's always the biggest thing for most of these kids.

"As of now he's in the pen. As of permanent role, temporary, don't know. By his performances, he'll let us know what he's going to do.

"I see him in both. I see him dominate in both, but I've seen him struggle a little in both. You know it all boils down to now is what's going to keep him on the field. What's going to keep him or help him go up the ladder. Right now it's in the pen.

"Hopefully he stays healthy. Hopefully he performs like he did last year in Charleston. He was very, very good in Charleston. He's showing signs of doing the same thing."

It is a very small sample size but Enns is starting to duplicate the first-half bullpen dominance he displayed in Charleston last season; he has a 0.90 ERA as a short-inning reliever this season so far while holding batters to a .156 batting average and striking out better than a batter per inning pitched.

"Right now, so far, he's done a good job," Pedrique said. "He started in the rotation, then we moved him to the bullpen. He's come out of the bullpen rested and throwing strikes.

"His fastball life is much better. It's stronger. The fact that he's not pitching five, six innings at a time. He gets a break in-between his outings. When he comes back, he's much stronger."

Neither Borrell nor Pedrique are exactly sure which role Enns will grab on to down the road, but it is also hard to ignore the kind of success he has shown as a reliever to date.

"As of now, we're going to keep him in the bullpen, to keep him fresh, and to keep his innings down," Pedrique said. "Down the road it depends on our need as an organization, but our goal is to make sure that he stays healthy.

"Personally, I like to see him out of the bullpen. He comes out challenging the hitters. His fastball has more life. When he's rested, he's been doing a good job with his changeup.

"I think he's maturing and that he understands what type of pitcher he is and that he can be. His confidence level is high."

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