Ortiz Adding To His Arsenal

Jonathan Ortiz has added a new pitch

CHARLESTON, SC - Tied for the South Atlantic League lead in saves, Charleston Riverdogs reliever Jonathan Ortiz has not only amassed impressive numbers this season, but has been stellar throughout his career in the Yankees organization. While he keeps piling up the numbers this year, the diminutive right-hander has been adding to his arsenal as well.

Prior to this season, Jonathan Ortiz had posted a 1.42 ERA with an 8-1 record in 184 innings pitched, allowing just 107 hits, and striking out 210 batters. He spent time at three different levels in 2007 including high-A Tampa, the GCL Yankees and Staten Island.

Ortiz has continued to dazzle in Charleston, converting eleven of twelve save opportunities. He chalks his success up to his unquestionable control and ability to throw his offspeed pitches effectively.

"My command has been one of the key things," he said through the help of a translator, "that and being able to throw the changeup consistently."

He may not be the hardest thrower on the team, but his ability to locate his offspeed pitches keeps the opposing hitters off-balance. Riverdogs Pitching Coach Jeff Ware is quick to point out that Ortiz is able to rely on his sensational changeup.

"It's a power changeup that comes in, looks like a fastball and just dives when the bottom falls out, you get a lot of swings and misses and he keeps his pitches down in the zone," said Ware.

Ortiz has managed to baffle Sally League hitters in the late innings this year and in nineteen innings has allowed seventeen hits, three walks and twenty one strikeouts with a 2.37 ERA.

He has high hopes for continuing to advance through the organization. After playing in three different levels last year, Ortiz remained confident he could dominate in Charleston and even higher.

"I was ready to pitch in high-A if they had to put me there," he said confidently, "so I felt like I was ready to pitch wherever they wanted me."

While Ortiz may have lofty hopes for advancing through the system, the Yankees know he must round out some more of his pitches if he is going to be effective further along in his career.

Coach Ware maintains that Ortiz needs to shore up his fastball and be able to effectively depend on it.

"The biggest key for him as he to moves up the ladder in the organization is to be able to utilize his fastball a little bit more when setting up that changeup," he said.

Ortiz thinks his fastball should not be a problem as he feels it has gained some velocity since the end of last season in Staten Island.

"This year I feel like my fastball has a lot more pop at 90-91 MPH instead of last year where it was 88-89 MPH."

The Dominican native knows he can still rely on that changeup and throw it in any situation, but he has a new trick up his sleeve.

"I feel like I can throw the changeup in any count and I feel like my slider is a key pitch to my success," he revealed. "I'm not scared to throw the slider. I just started throwing that pitch this year instead of a curveball."

"We've got him throwing a slider now," said coach Ware when asked about this new addition. "He was throwing a spinning curveball that didn't have a lot of bite to it. This slider is going to be a little shorter, and have a quicker break to it, especially against righties.

"We know he's got the changeup that he can really use to lefties, but he needs another pitch that goes the opposite way of that changeup, which is why we're teaching him the slider."

To get to that next level, Ortiz and Coach Ware know his fastball isn't going to blow anyone away at the plate but if he can get ahead of hitters and effectively locate his fastball, with his great changeup and new slider, he will be able to move quickly through the system.

""He just needs to continue to throw strikes, he's not a power-velocity guy so he's got to be able to command that fastball and keep it down in the zone," said Ware.

Ortiz plans to continue doing what he's doing, which has certainly proved to be a clever tactic. He knows his hard work and ability to keep the Riverdogs winning will be the key to his successful season - that and a little help from the big guy.

"I'm just going to give it my all every game and thanks to God until now that I've been able to command all my pitches and get outs," Ortiz concluded.

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