By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Not many people grow up within walking distance of a major league ballpark. For Jacob Faria, a childhood in Anaheim, Calif., and a father who played the game helped foster his love for baseball.
“I can see the halo from my back yard. I grew up as a big Angels fan,” Faria commented. “My dad played baseball in high school, so that’s where the baseball comes from.”
A 2011 10th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, Faria is spending his second summer in Princeton. Last season with the P-Rays the then 19-year-old pitched in 13 games, five of them starts, had a 3-4 record with a 5.14 ERA and struck out 34 batters in 42 innings. This season Faria has been strictly used as a starter and has been impressive for Princeton.
The Southern California native has started five games and is among the Appalachian League leaders with a 1.80 ERA. His record is 0-1 and in 25 innings he has fanned 27 batters and walked only four. His last start on July 20 against Kingsport, he pitched six innings, gave up two hits and struck out seven.
Faria said this season in Princeton has been easier than last.
“I am more comfortable this year than I was last year, with everything, my mechanics, all the parts, everything about it,” Faria said. “That’s a big factor.”
The 6-4 right-handed pitcher talked about his second full season as a professional baseball player and the time spent in Florida.
“Extended (spring training) is a time to develop. It’s not like you’re going to a full-season team where if you struggle you affect the rest of the team. If you struggle you affect yourself, basically. It’s more time to develop yourself and come here in the short-season and have a good year.”
One area in which he feels more comfortable is in facing the hitters and that’s due to the experience he gained not only in the Appalachian League, but also in extended spring.
“Last year I came and I don’t think I was ready for the level of hitters that were here,” Faria pointed out. “I feel like knowing everything I learned last year helps me this year a lot.
“Hitters don’t miss mistakes. If you’re in high school and you throw 90 (miles an hour) over the plate, they’re going to miss it most of the time. Here you throw in the 90s over the plate, they’re going to smack it somewhere. They don’t miss mistakes here.”
Faria said the biggest challenge he has faced and faces is consistency.
“The consistency in my delivery has been the biggest thing I’ve spent the entire year doing in extended, coming into here, just getting consistent delivery, consistent command of all my pitches,” Faria noted.
He gives credit to P-Rays pitching coach Darwin Peguero who pushes him to do his best.
“He stays on me all the time, doesn’t let me get lazy, stays on me to do my best,” Faria said.
While the Rays have struggled at the plate this season and wins have been far fewer than losses so far this season, the Princeton pitchers have been a bright spot for the team and Faria’s last outing was his most exciting moment of the season thus far.
“My last game, I felt was my best experience so far this year, going six (innings),” Faria said. “That was one of the best game, just everything about it, going six, giving up one run, that was the best part of the year so far.”
As with all players at the Appalachian League level, Faria’s goal is to continue to climb the baseball ladder and make it to the majors. But in order to do that, short-term goals must be accomplished, of which Faria spoke.
“I am just keeping up what I’ve been doing, just keeping up going out there and giving my team a chance to win every time,” Faria said. “ That’s all I can control. What they do with me as the season goes on, that’s on them, but all I can do is keep on doing what I’ve been doing.”
Faria’s next starting assignment will come Friday when the Rays take on Bluefield at Bowen Field in the first game of the 2013 Mercer Cup series.
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com