Since entering the Pirates system in 2016, pitcher Evan Piechota has been the model of consistency. Bit by bit, he has shown an ability to get better and progress.
So far in 2018, Piechota is on that same path, which earned hima recent promotion from the West Virginia Power.
Through his start on May 27 against Kannapolis, the Michigan native and Madonna University product was among the team and South Atlantic League leaders with a 1.96 earned run average. In 41 1/3 innings pitched, Piechota had a team high 45 strikeouts with just six walks and two home runs allowed.
Against Kannapolis, Piechota went 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, allowing six hits and one earned run as the Power dropped the second half of a doubleheader against the Intimidators. In his start before that, however, the 24 year old suffered his only loss of the season after allowing four earned runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings on May 19 at home against the Lexington Legends.
“From my last start to this start, during the week, I focused on executing pitches down because I felt in my last start my fastball started rising a little bit and they started hitting me around a little bit. This start I knew we were facing a good team and I had to execute early. Gonzo (catch Yoel Gonzalez) called a good game and the players behind me made some good plays that helped me out a lot too.”
Piechota played one game in Morgantown with the Black Bears in 2017, but mostly spent the season with Bristol in the Appalachian League. While there, he got the opportunity to work with current Power pitching coach and former Pirates All-Star Joel Hanrahan. In 59 innings, Piechota struck out 51 batters while allowing six walks with a 2.95 ERA. For his career, he has 115 strikeouts and 16 walks in 126 innings.
“Every time I go out there I try to be pretty consistent and pound the strike zone, so I don’t give up too many walks,” he said. “I can give up a hit in an inning and there’s not much damage.”
A point of emphasis for Piechota coming into this season was to get back to using his changeup against right-handed hitters. He said it was something he and Hanrahan worked on in Bristol last summer, but he got away from at the end of the season.
Last time out against Kannapolis, Piechota was good early with his fastball down and away. When he settled in, he found success throwing that changeup for strikes.
“In the past, me and Hanny — last year I was working with him as well — we were throwing changeups more to right-handed hitters, but I got away from that. Last year that was an emphasis and this year I came in making sure that I was actually doing that. I’ve been utilizing the right-handed changeups more and it’s paying off. It just adds another weapon to my arsenal.”
Piechota spoke highly of working with the former Pirates closer turned minor league pitching coach.
“(Hanrahan) is a great dude, a good coach and a two-time All-Star, so he has got a lot of knowledge in his head,” Piechota said. “He talks to us after – we’ll go out there and throw an inning and he’ll come discuss our pitch sequences and everything. It’s great having someone that’s been there, done it, knows what you’re looking for. It’s awesome having him around. I don’t want another pitching coach.”
Piechota did get a new pitching coach when he moved up to Bradenton, which is probably a welcome trade. He’ll be able to take the knowledge Hanrahan gave him and use it to try and keep moving up in the system.