When Julio Pimentel arrived in Dodgertown from the Dominican Republic, the first thing that coaches noticed about him was the quality of his pitches. Next, they commented on his poise for in both areas, he seemed well advanced for one of such tender years. So, the decison was made to have him skip rookie ball and go right to low A.
They weren't sorry then but two years later, another change of direction has been indicated for Julio has been removed from the Vero Beach rotation and thrust into the bullpen. They certainly haven't altered their feelings about his physical ability. Poise, though, is another matter.
Pimentel was quite successful in 2004 at Columbus where he finished 10-8, 3.48 with 102 strikeouts in 111 innings including one game where he K'd the first eight batters he faced. This at age 18, mind you. The first half of last year at Vero Beach saw more good outings. But then came the flip side for Pimentel lost his groove.
The hits started coming for the opposition which, in turn, caused him to press. He began overthrowing and that made his pitches stay up in the red zone. More hits, more losses. He was to finish 2005 with an 8-10 mark, a 5.08 ERA as the opposition banged him around for a .305 average.
This spring saw assiduous work with Marty Reed, the organization's pitching instructor and a man who knew Julio well, having been his coach at Vero last summer. "He's got as good an arm as any young pitcher in this organization," opined Marty.
This season saw him begin in the rotation for Vero with mixed results. Some days, he conquered, some he did not. Usually, when he didn't, he'd cruise for four innings or so, then, suddenly, implode. Thus, the decision to use him for shorter periods where he could stay more focused.
Ironically, his last start was his best yet, six innings without a run beiung tallied. But to the pen he went anyway. On May 21, he received his first call from there.
It wasn't a laugher; rather, to protect a two-run lead for Scott Elbert. That he did with two shuout frames as Vero won 4-2. His next call came two days later. This time the Dodgers trailed by a run. He kept them close, allowing a lone hit in three innings but they couldn't take advantage of that, losing 6-5.
So far, darn good. A successful conversion like Jonathan Broxton? Not exactly because unlike Broxton, he's no come-in-and-throw-scorching-heat-for-a-short time guy; rather, he relies on a low 90's fast ball, a slurve with a nasty late break and a developing change. Changing speeds and hitting spots is his game.
Currently, he has that impressive string of 12 scoreless innings, somethig they hope will build back the confidence that was shattered in all the turmoil of the past. Maybe then it will be back to starting. He's only 20 so a decision about what's best in that department doesn't have to be imminent.
For now, its enough that he's back to taking command once more