It’s been a dream start to the season for Shawn Morimando.
AKRON It’s been a dream start to the season for Shawn Morimando.
The 23-year-old left hander has emerged as the ace of the Akron RubberDucks rotation, posting a 9-1 record with a 2.17 ERA for the best team in the Eastern League.
Morimando, a 19th-round pick in the 2011 draft, is in his third year with the RubberDucks and he’s had the sort of season that a minor leaguer dreams of in pursuit of his major league dreams.
“I’m just working hard every day … showing up, getting my work in and I’m really focused working on my craft and getting from my mechanics to my off-speed pitches and my fastball to come together to where it is right now and so I’m in a good spot and we have an awesome team, so it makes it fun,” Morimando said.
Winning nine straight decisions to start the year, with a minuscule WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) of 1.12 and a near-certain spot in next month’s EL All-Star Game at Canal Park, it would seem to be the sort of stretch that would have a Double-A pitcher eyeing a promotion to the next level and taking the next step toward the majors.
Yet the Virginia native insists that despite his success, he’s not spending a lot of time thinking about when that call-up might come.
“Not really. I’m so focused on getting better every day and getting the ball every fifth day, just going out there and competing no matter where I’m at," Morimando said. "That will take care of itself and I can’t focus on that because it takes me away from what I’m doing here and working on my own development."
Being selected to start this season’s home opener at Canal Park, which he called “a great honor,” was another big moment in the season for Morimando. It was the first time he’s started a home opener for any of his minor league teams and he delivered a strong start to lead the RubberDucks to a win.
Despite his improved results this season, the sixth-year pitcher said he didn’t make any major changes to his offseason training routine. In spring training, his focus was on his mechanics and making sure his fastball, the pitch off which he builds his approach on the mound, was where it needed to be.
“I work everything off my fastball, so if I’m able to locate my fastball to cut inside and outside that’s big and then my change-up I’ve been able to throw my curveball more consistently for strikes,” Morimando said. “My slider … I still have my slider, but I pick and choose where I throw it. So I have options if one pitch isn’t there that night, I have weapons I can use.”
With that repertoire of pitches, he’s been effective this season without needing to strike out tons of batters. While striking out about six batters per nine innings, Morimando’s goal has been to get hitters out in fewer than three pitches and that means getting them to put the ball in play and allowing his defense to do the work from there.
By getting more outs early in the count, he can go deeper into games and that lends itself to a more aggressive mindset because he’s attacking hitters from the outset and not trying to set up a strikeout. Having catchers Jeremy Lucas and Alex Monsalve back from last season has also been beneficial and Morimando feels comfortable working with Lucas, Monsalve and Eric Haase behind the plate because he can communicate well with all three.
Then there’s the offensive firepower behind him whenever he takes the mound; Akron is second in the EL in runs scored and home runs.
“It’s a great feeling. When the offense is out there putting up runs and hits for you, you just want to go back out there, have a quick inning and get them back out there so they can hit,” Morimando said.
With his team in first place, nine wins on his record and his case for a promotion getting stronger with each start, there is plenty to feel good about for the RubberDucks resident ace.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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