ALLENTOWN – When the Phillies sent down Justin De Fratus on St. Patrick's Day in spring training, pitching coach Rich Dubee said the 25-year-old righthander needed "to get his arm strength" going.
He has done that, which is why he is back in the big leagues after being recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley following the Phillies' 3-2 loss to Arizona Friday night at Chase Field.
De Fratus, talking before a Lehigh Valley game Wednesday, said he could see his minor-league demotion coming even though he had hoped to make his first opening-day roster.
"I had been having decent outings as far as getting people out, but I kind of had a sense it was coming," De Fratus said. "I knew my stuff wasn't right compared to where other guys were at the time. At the time, if you had asked me who I wanted to pick based on where they were at that moment, I probably wouldn't have taken myself either. But I was definitely disappointed."
The reason for the lack of velocity, according to De Fratus, was a mechanical adjustment he was attempting to make in spring training.
"I think my arm strength was fine," he said. "I knew it was there, but it needed to be there along with the mechanical things. We needed to take care of the mechanical things and once I got more comfortable on that, then I was able to be even more confident and throw pitches with more conviction."
"We were just trying to quicken it up to home plate a little bit," said De Fratus. "We were trying to lower my times to home plate with men on base and I think we found a remedy for it. I'm confident I'm going to be able to hold runners and keep guys from stealing, at least the guys who shouldn't be stealing bases. And I can still keep my stuff."
Using his 13 games with the IronPigs as a barometer, his stuff has been outstanding. He left his triple-A teammates with a 3-0 record and a 1.89 ERA.
De Fratus said he got too involved in his mechanical adjustment during spring training.
"I got too worked up about that instead of working on it during my side sessions and then letting it filter in on its own," he said. "You practice things enough it's going to take over. When it came time for the game I should have been more focused on the hitters and getting them out.
"Not just getting them out either. You pitch to dominate and that's not the mentality that I had. When you're capable of throwing the ball in the mid-90s and then in spring training you're in the high 80s, that could be the result of worrying about other things as opposed to getting guys out."
De Fratus was in a good mental state at Lehigh Valley, which is one of the reasons why he is back with the Phillies now.
"I know I have been throwing up a lot of zeroes and I hope to continue doing that," he said. "If that continues, things will work out."