INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Eppler has a simple goal for the remainder of the season: finish stronger than he started.
And more importantly, finish on a strong note after a rough stretch. Eppler is well on his way to doing just that after two straight solid outings.
He’s had consecutive starts of allowing just one earned run over seven innings, both coming against Louisville, one at home and one on the road.
And those performances come at a good time. Eppler had been scuffling for a few months, posting a 7-plus ERA since early June. That was after having a 2.45 ERA in April and 3.23 ERA in May.
Eppler’s start on Monday also was important due to it coming on the road, where Eppler has a 7.67 ERA this season. He’s completed seven innings on four occasions, but Monday was the first time he did so away from Victory Field.
But how did Eppler get back on track? Well, a little video study and now, some added confidence.
Eppler and coaches went over video of when he pitched well early in the season, comparing to video of his recent performances. A few tweaks were made and they’ve created some quick dividends.
“A few things were standing tall and falling forward, which was causing me to fly open and not be able to get the ball down and pitches weren’t as sharp,” Eppler said. “So, just making those little adjustments right there.”
One positive for Eppler moving forward this season will be stability, as Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett expects him to be back in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season into the playoffs, after Steven Brault’s promotion created an opening.
Eppler has made six relief appearances this season. A couple of those were due to the organization choosing to have most starters skip a start and instead pitch in relief. However, Eppler was recently moved to the bullpen to avoid using a six-man rotation.
“It’s been tough going back and forth and not knowing what you’re doing when you’ve been on a routine pretty much your whole career,” Eppler said. “It’s an adjustment that was kind of tough.”
In the end, Eppler just wants to pitch wherever he can help his team the most. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to do so as Indianapolis won the International League West Division and heads to the playoffs next week.
“He started off real good and kind of went through some rough patches,” Barkett said. “We need him. We need him to pitch like he did (against Louisville) if we’re going to win this thing. Now he’s in a more stable role and maybe this will help him and catapult him to some much-needed confidence that he’s been needing.”
DuRapau Keeps Moving Through the System
He’s not going to pass the eye test.
Montana DuRapau is listed on the Indianapolis roster as standing 5’11”, but he’s more likely about 5’10”.
He was a 32nd round draft pick, so, there’s not a lot of hype surrounding him.
Hitters, consider that your fair warning. DuRapau passes the results test as he continues to climb through the minor leagues and the 25-year-old is one step away from the major leagues with Triple-A Indianapolis.
“He doesn’t really pass the eye test physically as far as being an intimidating guy,” Barkett said. “But when he gets the ball in the glove and gets ready to pitch he has some weapons that will get you out.”
DuRapau is looking to join rare company someday – becoming a major league pitcher while standing shorter than 5’11”.
Of the 379 pitchers on a major league roster, only 13 (3.4 percent) are 5-foot-10 or shorter. A majority of those pitchers — 71.5 percent — stand 6-foot-2 or taller.
“The way I look at it, I’m sure there are a lot of short guys that could pitch at this level, but you go with upside and the bigger guy,” DuRapau said. “You can’t teach height, so guys take chances on being able to teach talent instead of being able to teach or develop guys.”
DuRapau realizes hitters might take him for granted if they’ve never seen him, but that’s just fine with him. He’s already has the edge at that point.
“I’m sure, but if you do as a hitter you’re going to put yourself at a disadvantage,” DuRapau said. “I’ll use that to my advantage if I can. But my goal is to be the best, I don’t care how tall I am.”
What he lacks in height, DuRapau makes up for with a mentality and attitude that’s based on a confidence level that feels contagious.
“I’m a dog out there,” DuRapau said. “I’m scratching and clawing, and will do whatever I can to stick around. Challenge everybody. That’s what it comes down to is I’m going to beat you or you’re going to beat me, but I’m putting my money on myself. I bring my best stuff against his best stuff and we’ll see what happens.”
DuRapau’s “best” has typically been winning the battle against hitters. He has a 3.45 ERA in 14 appearances with Indianapolis, but posting mainly clean outings as evident by an impressive 0.77 WHIP. He has struck out 20 batters in 15.2 innings.
It’s how DuRapau is getting those results that has been impressive. Despite not having that towering presence on the mound, DuRapau still brings heat – throwing in the mid-90s.
Add in the location of those fastballs and it’s a tough match-up for hitters.
“If you don’t know anything about him, you think, ‘OK, he’s probably throwing about 90 with a little sink and a little slider,’” Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. “Then all of a sudden he pops 94 on you up in the zone and you’re like, ‘Holy mackerel.’ It’s tough for us as hitters to get on top of 94 up in the strike zone.”
In the end, his DuRapau’s height is just a number to him and not added motivation to prove people wrong. He’s simply focused on the future and isn’t shy about setting lofty goals.
“Everybody wants to be the best,” DuRapau said. “I want to be the guy on the mound in big situations, make it to the big leagues and be a hall of famer – you know, the whole thing – I want to be the best.”
Not many draft picks from the 32nd round reach the major league level, nor do many pitchers standing shorter than 6’0″, but at this point, it might be a good idea to stop counting out DuRapau from breaking through those barriers.
Starting Rotation One of the Best
Indianapolis’ starting pitching has been dominant in recent weeks, that’s nothing news-breaking, but they are also dominating the International League statistical leaderboard.
Steven Brault, now with the Pirates, leads all of Triple-A with his 1.94 ERA. Drew Hutchison (3.36) is tied for seventh with teammate Clay Holmes among International League ERA leaders.
Tyler Glasnow (1.93) would rank first if he had enough innings to qualify for the leaderboard. Nick Kingham (4.13) had been in the top-10 before allowing eight runs and four runs in his most recent starts.