BROOKLYN, NY — During a recent trip to Brooklyn, I caught up with Staten Island Yankees pitcher Evan DeLuca. Thing is, there was a time where I wouldn’t have needed to go that far to see him.
For two years, DeLuca pitched at Hunterdon Central Regional High School, which is where I also went. However, he transferred to Immaculata — which has produced Jack Cust, Casey Cahill and a few other pro ballplayers — and was drafted as a Spartan in the 44th round of the 2009 draft by his favorite team, the New York Yankees.
The 20-year-old lefty was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time after a bullpen session, and we talked about a very wide variety of topics. For a feature on DeLuca with quotes from Yankees pitching coach Danny Borrell, be sure to read today’s Hunterdon County Democrat.
Mike Ashmore: As a Hunterdon Central graduate, I have to ask…what led to you transferring over to Immaculata?
Evan DeLuca: “Well, I think the biggest thing was just I really wasn’t getting enough time on the mound. I didn’t get to pitch much, and I was looking for more. I’d been real friendly with the people at the Jack Cust Baseball Academy, with (Immaculata head coach) Tom Gambino and all those guys, and I thought it was a good decision for me. They put me in the starting rotation my junior year, so I got a lot of benefit out of that and grew as a pitcher. It was especially nice being a starter, I’d always been a setup (man) or a closer coming up through high school, so they worked me into the starting rotation my junior year and then I pitched there my senior year and things turned out real well.
And scholastically too, I heard it was a little bit lighter of a load for homework, so it gave me more opportunity to focus on school when I’m at school and focus on baseball outside of the classroom. I thought it was a good move.”
Ashmore: The Yankees drafted you in the 44th round in 2009…take me back to that day, what was that experience like for you?
DeLuca: “I had anticipated going a little bit earlier, but I had heard a lot of teams had gotten scared given the fact that I’m a Type 1 Diabetic. I can understand that that’s a little bit of a risk, taking a young kid who hasn’t had it for all that long. Sometimes kids aren’t as responsible as they should be with their health and stuff, but fortunately for me I’ve been on top of it since I got diagnosed as a Diabetic in ’05. So that was one thing that dropped me a little bit. But the Yankees had pretty much been at every one of my starts my senior year, and they paid a lot of attention to me. They were out there in the rain and the heat, watching me and stuff, so I knew they had a lot of interest in me. It was the third day, and I was out to breakfast with one of my good friends who went to Central too, and with my dad. And I got the call at a place out in East Amwell, I was at a breakfast place just getting some lunch with my dad, and I got the call from Steve Markovich, the Yankees area scout. He called and told me, ‘Evan, you’ve been selected in the 44th round.’”
“I automatically thought I wasn’t going to sign, just with it being the 44th round, I didn’t think it was a real good chance. I knew I wasn’t going to go for any amount of money, I knew it had to be something that was going to change my life and for me to throw my scholarship away for. Luckily they came through, and I had a real good summer out in Washington playing for my summer ball team that my college I was committed to sent me out to. So, luckily they came through and big things happened. Luckily, I’m in my favorite organization now.”
Ashmore: I heard you grew up following the Yankees…
DeLuca: “Yeah, I was a big Yankees fan growing up. I grew up watching David Cone and all those guys, and I get to listen to their games a lot now that they broadcast the Yankees around here. I still watch all that stuff when I go home every once in a while, being that I’m close to home in Staten Island. I grew up a Yankees fan and always went to the games. I went to the Trenton Thunder a lot growing up, and I used to say to my dad that it would be funny if I played here one day. Sure enough, I’ve got an opportunity to do that down the road.”
Ashmore: Your numbers this season seem pretty solid (3-3, 4.27, 11 GS)…talk me through your season, how would you say everything’s been going this year?
DeLuca: “It’s been a little bit of an up and down season. It started off real well, and I was going deep into games, and that’s been my goal since day one. Just to be able to have lower pitch counts and get my team deep into ballgames; five or six (innings) at least. It’s been a little bit of a struggle as of late. Some things mechanically have come into play, and I’m working on those things inbetween starts. You’ve got to understand from a pitching standpoint that things aren’t going to be corrected in a day, and there’s no guarantee that those are cure-alls for the problems you’ve been having. It’s just been a little bit of a control issue lately, too many walks. It’s just growing pains that you go through, I’m only 20 years old and it’s all stuff that you’ve got to learn to cope with.
“I understand that scouts, especially from other organizations or our organization, they don’t want to see you breeze through a league, they want to see you get yourself into situations and see how you cope with that. It’s kind of been a dual-edged sword in a way. As much as I’d like to go out and dominate the Penn League, it’s been a little bit of a struggle here and there, and it helps you grow as a player and helps you cope with the real world of baseball is all about. Even big leaguers go through struggles with stuff mechanically. You go out there with your best stuff sometimes, and you’ll get hit around a little bit too. But it’s nothing that’s not fixable. My pitching coach, Danny Borrell, and I worked really hard before my starts, so I have a keen focus on what I need to work on during my starts. We go back and look at video so we get a good idea. It’s been a real change of pace since last year, getting out of the Gulf Coast League and leading my team in pretty much every category that you don’t want to lead in. It’s been a real turnaround for me so far, and I want to finish this season real strong and hopefully lead our team into the playoffs.”
Ashmore: What kind of pitch count are they keeping you on this season?
DeLuca: “I think we’ve been around 85 pitches, I think that’s what pretty much all our starters are at right now except for our new guy, Matt Tracy, who came into the rotation recently. But they usually try to keep us around 85, but the max we’ll go is six innings, just with the amount arms we have here, everybody needs to get some time on the mound, which is understood.”
Ashmore: I haven’t seen you throw before…tell me about your stuff and what you throw…
DeLuca: “Fastball, circle changeup and curveball. Haven’t been able to throw the changeup and curveball for strikes lately, but they’re there and it’s just a matter of time before they get sharpened up a little bit more. But yeah, three-pitch mix, it’s what I’ve had since I was in high school. Pretty much what they do is just fine-tune your pitches now and keep them sharp. They’ve been doing a real good job with that.”
Ashmore: How hard is the cheddar?
DeLuca: “This season, it’s been down a little bit. I had a little bit of an injury in spring training, I had strained my UCL in my elbow, so it’s been down. Last year, I was like 90-94 and this year it’s been down, it’s like 87-89, something like that. So it’s been down, but it’s just a matter of getting extension back in my arm and it’s just protecting the elbow a little bit, so it’s a little bit skewed. But it’s all just a matter of time.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com