Baker wins with brains and brawn [Baseball]

July 18, 2013

Dylan Baker

For most of his life, Dylan Baker of Juneau had success just throwing the ball.

He blew batters away with a 90-plus fastball and kept them off balance with off-speed stuff.

Then he got drafted by the Cleveland Indians and went pro with the Class-A Lake County Captains, and everything went downhill. For the first time, the can’t-miss kid wasn’t getting hitters to swing and miss. He was getting hit, hard.

“It was really tough,” he told me. “It was hard to take it all in. I’ve never felt that.”

The losing streak didn’t last.

Baker got after it with Lake County pitching coach Steve Karsay, a former major leaguer, to work out the kinks and now he looks like an all-star.

Baker, a 21-year-old righty, has gone 5-0 with a sparking 1.37 ERA over his last seven starts.

He was never better than a stretch from June 12 to July 11 when he yielded just two runs stretching five starts.

Getting tips from a former big leaguer only helps.

“Obviously he knows what it takes to get all the way there,” Baker said. “Me and Karsay have been working a lot together. He’s been helping me a lot with my mechanics. He’s been working on my changeup a lot.”

By far the biggest adjustment, Baker said, has been mentally. It’s like going to school all over again.

“I look at the scouting report before I pitch to know what pitches to throw to what hitters,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than college, that’s for sure.

“Pretty much any guy in the lineup can hit a home run and so you got to throw pitches and really got to pay attention. They are all really good. One through nine can hit every pitch so it’s definitely harder. You gotta know the really good hitters, the contact hitters, the power hitters. You gotta know what pitches to throw to them.”