If the minor-league season is an education in professional baseball, then the final few weeks of that season serve as something of a final exam.
It’s cumulative and features bonus questions hand-picked from the next year’s curriculum.
Oh, and your performance could very well determine your next class placement.
“The goal at the end of the season—every season—is to take everything that you’ve learned, all year long, and try to put it into play over the last week,” Fredericksburg Nationals pitching coach Pat Rice said Tuesday.
The FredNats conclude their inaugural season with a six-game home series against Lynchburg this week. Then comes the evaluation from the Washington Nationals’ minor-league staff.
Maybe a pitcher didn’t throw enough change-ups throughout the summer; that pitch will become a point of emphasis in his final few appearances. Over the past couple weeks, Rice has added mechanical tweaks that will remain a focus during the upcoming offseason.
In the case of 18-year-old Venezuelan right-hander, Andry Lara, that could mean severing his Dr. Jekyl breaking ball into two distinct pitches, a curveball with depth and a sweeping slider.
Recently, Rice has prodded another highly rated prospect, right-hander Jackson Rutledge, to use his curveball more frequently to get ahead in counts.
The best part about the waning weeks of the minor-league season is that it provides the sort of experiential learning credits prospects need to matriculate through the system.
“You only learn how to pitch against hitters,” Rice said. “You can throw all the bullpens you want, but it doesn’t come into play until you’re on the field.”
Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045