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Eugogio De La Cruz Relieved to be Starting

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De La Cruz relieved to be starter


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: March 30. 2007 7:00AM

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Starter or reliever?

At least for now, the Detroit Tigers seem content on keeping SeaWolves right-hander Eulogio De La Cruz in the starting rotation.

That doesn't necessarily mean they see him down the road handling that role. Giving him consistent innings is the Tigers' priority, and that's tough to do out of the bullpen.

Remaining a starter should give the 23-year-old Dominican more experience and enable him to continue developing his curve and change-up.

His electric fastball, which usually operates in the mid-90s and sometimes flirts with triple-digit velocity, is one of the best in the Tigers' organization.

Baseball America ranks De La Cruz the Tigers' sixth-best minor-league prospect.

"Last year when I started I felt great," he said. "I was getting good movement and good command with my fastball, and my change-up and breaking ball got better. They want me to start in Double-A this season because they want me to throw more innings. I'm not disappointed about starting in Double-A. I think I'll be up at Triple-A relatively soon."

Tigers minor-league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack isn't willing to endorse that move just yet.

"I can't tell you about his development at this point," Matlack said. "I am not ecstatic about where he is. He's plateaued at the moment and I don't see any real improvement from what he was last year. I need to see a little bit more of that, so there is some stuff to be worked on there."

Earlier this spring, De La Cruz spent about two weeks in major-league camp, but only threw a couple innings.

Lately, he's been experiencing some tightness in his throwing shoulder.

When the 2006 season began, the Tigers couldn't decide whether they wanted to see the stocky, 5-foot 11-inch pitcher develop as a set-up man or closer in Erie's bullpen.

After struggling as a reliever for most of last season, De La Cruz was forced into the starting rotation in mid-July because of injuries and seemed to fine his niche.

Now, he doesn't want to leave it.

He says he feels more comfortable knowing when he is going to pitch and feels starting has allowed him to develop his command and improve his consistency with his secondary pitches.

Appearing in 38 games last season, including 12 starts, De La Cruz finished 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA. He had 87 strikeouts in 105 innings.

As a starter the last six weeks of the season, he felt he began to make significant strides transitioning from a hard thrower into a more complete pitcher.

"I don't know if it's the organization's plan to keep him in the starting rotation, but I know he will start for us initially unless something changes in the next week," SeaWolves pitching coach A.J. Sager said. "He can do that. He's got three very workable pitches. Everybody knows about his live fastball, but he's got a good breaking ball and a good change-up. It's just a matter of getting some consistency with those pitches."

Sager likens De La Cruz's development to that of Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, who developed his 100 mph fastball and secondary pitches as a starter at five different levels (Gulf Coast Rookie League, West Michigan, Lakeland, Erie and Toledo) from 2002-05.

"Joel always started and he throws 100 mph, yes, but he has good off-speed pitches," said Sager, who spent the past five seasons as low Single-A West Michigan's pitching coach. "I had him as a starter at West Michigan (2003) and he threw very well. He found his way to the end of a game and looks very comfortable there. I think De La Cruz with his repertoire could start or he could certainly pitch at the end of a game. That will kind of find it's own way."

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.


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Mods sorry I spelled De la Cruz's name wrong, thanks in advance for correcting it for me.

that looks something like Ben Stiller would have said in zoolander

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He completely shut the Indians down on Saturday. He doesnt look like your typical starting pitcher. He gets everything out of his frame to be able to throw as hard as he does.

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I think Leonardi paraphrases some. This is the second article I find suspect. De la Cruz is easy to comunicate with but this quote was a little too fluent.

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I agree, as I viewed his outing last Saturday vs. the Indians in Winter Haven. He looks fantastic, great command, poise, disposition and confidence.

He's tough to hit

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