Gallen get­ting closer to his goal

Im­proved cut­ter could be ticket to the ma­jors

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Wells Dusen­bury

JUPITER — Zac Gallen no­ticed some­thing felt off mid­way through the sea­son.

The Mi­ami Mar­lins pitch­ing prospect was in Triple-A New Or­leans last year and had ex­pe­ri­enced mixed re­sults dur­ing his first full sea­son at the mi­nor league’s high­est level.

Ac­quired from St. Louis in the Mar­cell Ozuna trade, the righthander posted a 4.24 ERA and .301 op­pos­ing bat­ting av­er­age in the first half and felt the cut­ter — his go-to pitch from col­lege through the mi­nors — had lost some of its ef­fec­tive­ness.

“About the mid­dle of the sea­son we were talk­ing and I said, ‘[My arm slot] doesn’t feel nat­u­ral,’ ” Gallen said. “‘I feel like I’m get­ting caught [too high],’ so it was some­thing we looked at.

“The cut­ter was some­thing I knew I had to work on. I had it early and some­where down the road just lost it, so that was some­thing I just tried to con­cen­trate on.”

If his sec­ond half is any in­di­ca­tion, Gallen’s head­ing on the right path.

In nine starts af­ter the All-Star

break, the 23-year-old notched a 2.61 ERA and low­ered his op­pos­ing bat­ting av­er­age to .245 — down

.56 from his first half num­bers. His strike­out-to-walk ra­tio also im­proved from

2.67-to-1 to 3.11-to-1.

The Mar­lins’ 19th rated prospect per Base­ball Amer­ica, Gallen spent the off­sea­son in his home­s­tate of New Jer­sey con­tin­u­ing to craft his cut­ter.

“It was my pitch all the way from col­lege and all the way up to the be­gin­ning of last year,” Gallen said. “I think with the arm slot get­ting high, be­ing a lit­tle un­nat­u­ral, it suf­fered. That was the thing I worked on.

“I felt like it was get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter as I played catch the past cou­ple of weeks. So I just try to take what I worked on out there and it hap­pened to work.”

A for­mer Univer­sity of North Carolina stand­out, Gallen was a third-round pick in 2016 and quickly as­cended through the Cardinals or­ga­ni­za­tion, ma­tric­u­lat­ing from High-A to Triple-A in 2017. Af­ter be­ing traded to the Mar­lins, he con­tin­ued his growth in New Or­leans.

With a strong pitch mix — he also uti­lizes a low 90’s fast­ball, change-up and curve­ball — along with his suc­cess in Triple-A, Gallen could be a call-up this sea­son.

He has made one spring train­ing ap­pear­ance, pitch­ing one score­less in­ning and strik­ing out two against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I felt like my cut­ter was re­ally good — get­ting back to form,” Gallen said.

While the Mar­lins have a large con­tin­gent of start­ing pitch­ers — seven, not in­clud­ing mi­nor league prospect Nick Nei­dert — in­juries and at­tri­tion al­ways oc­cur, mean­ing it’s likely Gallen sees him­self in the Mar­lins’ new col­ors at some point this year. When that mo­ment comes, the right-han­der says he’ll be ready.

“I think the mind­set you have to have, is that as soon as you get drafted, you pre­pare men­tally, be­cause you never know when it could hap­pen,” Gallen said.

“It’s def­i­nitely get­ting a lit­tle more se­ri­ous now. I’m just try­ing to go out there and com­pete every­day, show them what I’ve got and what I’m made of and hope­fully those things fall into place.”

Mar­lins man­ager Don Mat­tingly has seen Gallen in camp for the past two years and has seen him con­tinue to progress.

“We like his pitch mix, his weapons are good,” Mat­tingly said.

“He’s still a young kid and so the devel­op­ment side is im­por­tant for him to con­tinue — what’s his mix go­ing to be, how’s he go­ing to use it? Part of that ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing at dif­fer­ent lev­els and pitch­ing in camp is the ex­pe­ri­ence you gain. So you’re look­ing for them to kind of take lit­tle nicks, get­ting com­fort­able, how they’re us­ing their pitches dif­fer­ently — just the way they go about it.”


Mi­ami Mar­lins pitch­ing prospect Zac Gallen could be in line for a big league call-up this sea­son.

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