Pedro Lopez doesn’t seem surprised by Tyler Pill’s early-season success. After all, he’s used to it.
“He’s pitching the same way that he’s pitched the last four years for me in Binghamton,” said Lopez, now the 51s’ manager. “There’s a reason why he’s the all-time leader in wins for the B-Mets. … That goes to show you that he did something right.”
Pill, a fourth-round pick by the New York Mets in 2011, has pitched some of each season in Binghamton and Las Vegas since 2014. At Double A, the results were mostly there. At Triple A, they weren’t.
But this season, after two solid starts at Double A, Pill was promoted April 19 and is getting results for the 51s.
After four starts in Las Vegas, Pill is 2-0 with a 0.33 ERA. He has allowed one earned run in 37 1/3 innings between Double A and Triple A.
The right-hander, who will start Thursday night when the 51s begin a four-game series against the Omaha Storm Chasers at Cashman Field, said the biggest difference between this season and last, when he posted a 5.60 ERA in five starts with Las Vegas, is simply not trying to be too precise with his pitches.
“The results from attacking the zone and not being so precise early in the count is the hitter is always on defense, and if I mix in all my pitches, he’s trying to fend off four pitches the whole at-bat rather than being behind in the count and then he can start eliminating pitches and get a better approach at the dish,” Pill said.
Pill doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he does boast a four-pitch arsenal of a fastball, slider, change-up and curveball.
“Early on in the game, I’m trying to get the hitters to put the ball in play as early as they can so that they don’t see all my pitches and then I can use them later in the game so they get different looks at different pitches,” Pill said.
51s pitching coach Frank Viola said Pill is keeping hitters off stride and making them feel uncomfortable, and isn’t afraid of pitching inside.
“He’s putting the ball in play,” Viola said. “He’s forcing their hand, and he’s making them swing at his pitches instead of falling behind in the count and having to lay it in there like he’s had the last couple years and getting hit. Right now, he’s in charge, and it’s showing. I have not seen a bad game yet, and he’s getting better and better.”
Viola, who also coached Pill in Single-A Savannah in 2012, said this is the most confident he’s seen the right-hander.
“He doesn’t let anything bother him,” Viola said. “He’s focused, he has a game plan, (he’s) sticking to the game plan and he looks fantastic out there.”
Lopez noted something similar.
In his second start for the 51s this season, Pill allowed five unearned runs after an error by shortstop Amed Rosario. But Lopez said Pill did a “hell of a job” keeping Las Vegas in the game.
“It makes a world of difference when you go out there and you feel like, ‘You know what, I can do this,” Lopez said. “In the past, it could have gotten ugly really quick, but he didn’t do that. He went back to being himself and gave himself a chance and gave the team a chance.”
Lopez said he thought Pill might have been putting too much pressure on himself to prove he could pitch at Triple A until this season.
Pill wound up starting the season at Binghamton again. That didn’t last long. And now Viola said Pill has “put himself back on the map.”
“When he was told he was going to start at Double A again,” Viola said, “he was really upset, but instead of moping and feeling sorry for himself, he went out there with a game plan, and that’s to show people that they made a mistake by starting him in Binghamton. He did exactly that. He pitched great, got the call-up here, and he hasn’t stopped since.”
Contact Betsy Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.