STATE?COLLEGE?- Mitch Gueller's first trip through Williamsport wasn't exactly what he was hoping for. He's hoping a couple adjustments will make his second visit less frustrating.
The 2012 supplemental first round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies was just 3-8 with a 5.86 ERA in 14 starts for the Crosscutters as a 19-year old. Now in his second season with Williamsport, and his second full season as a professional, Gueller says a little confidence could go a long way in changing his results.
"It all starts with confidence, believing in yourself all the time," Gueller said during the Crosscutters' media day Wednesday. "From there, it's about being positive. You can't focus on the negative so much. Use the negative to get better and learn from your mistakes. But they don't make you who you are and they don't define you."
Gueller had just one scoreless outing in his 14 starts for Williamsport last year, a five-inning stint against Vermont in which he allowed just two hits. He recorded a season-high six strikeouts that night, but also walked four.
Gueller has averaged four walks per nine innings over his first two professional seasons, just one of the number of problems the Washington native has encountered. On top of that, as a pitcher who was billed to have a plus fastball with good feel for secondary pitches, Gueller has struck out just 5.7 batters per nine innings. His 1.716 career WHIP is also very high.
His eight losses a year ago were tied for the most in the New York-Penn League and set a Crosscutters record for most losses in a season.
"I've learned a lot. I wouldn't say it's frustrating, it's just a good learning experience. I think it's a wake-up call. It's motivating me to do better."
What bothered Gueller more about his struggles last year than anything was the lack of consistency. After allowing just four total earned runs in his first three starts, he never put together back-to-back starts of allowing two earned runs or fewer.
He also struggled with inconsistency in his velocity. Touted with a fastball which would touch 94 mph in high school, his fastball ranged from 86-93 throughout the course of the season.
The curveball he showed good feel for in high school just wasn't there for him last year. Most of the time it looked like he was guiding the pitch instead of throwing it. He's now given up on the curveball and gone to a slider according to an interview he did with the Lumber and Hide blog on media day.
Gueller is convinced his stuff is going to be there for him. He believes success will be all in his mentality.
"The biggest inconsistency I had was mentally. I wasn't allowing myself to do what I needed to do physically just because my mind wasn't right and I didn't have the right approach," Gueller said. "But I feel like I've figured it out for the most part and now I'm ready to go out and be more consistent and contribute."
The Crosscutters still haven't announced when Gueller will pitch, but it should be either Monday at State College, or Tuesday at home against Jamestown.
AN INTERESTING DEBUT
Ricky Bielski looked like every bit like the reliever who posted a sub-2.00 ERA in 2013 when he made his Crosscutters debut Friday night. At least for two innings.
The right-hander retired six of the first seven hitters he faced, breaking a pair of bats and recording a strikeout. It wasn't far off the kind of performance the now 19-year old had in his first full professional season last year in the Gulf Coast League.
The third inning was a bit more of an adventure, though, as three of the five batters he faced reach base, including two by walk. Bielski came to Williamsport with the reputation of a player who won't strike out a ton of hitters (5.89 per nine innings), but also won't allow many baserunners (1.04 WHIP).
He finished the night allowing a run in 2 2/3 innings on just one hit with three walks. He showed an ability to spot his fastball, and followed it up with a big, sweeping breaking ball which led to soft contact.