Clearwater, Florida - Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus appreciates the process.
Entering the major leagues and trying to adjust, while truly coming into his own, has taken time.
He made his major league debut the day the Phillies clinched the NL East [http://www.going9baseball.com/2011/09/25/phillies-reliever-justin-de-fratus-enjoying-transition-to-majors-after-neccessary-triple-a-time-2/] and pitched 61 innings and posted a 3.67 ERA combined for 2012 and 2013. Injury kept him from pitching the first three months of the season. Last season, he pitched 46 innings, struck out 42, giving up 46 hits, while walking 25.
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, the righty has a more settled, uncluttered state of mind.
“I'm finally comfortable," he said at Brighthouse Field before the Phillies faced the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League match-up. "There's still plenty to learn, but now there's a game plan and it comes down to accomplishing what's expected of me within that plan.”
The Phillies difficulties, along with managerial and coaching staff changes, have altered the team's course. They inspired confidence in fans and baseball experts with a solid lineup and mix of excellent young and veteran pitching just a couple of years ago. But De Fratus is confident with his own role, no matter what has gone down.
“I know where I'm going to be needed [out of the bullpen] and I'm ok with that.”
Drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round in 2007, he made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) and steadily climbed the ranks. He split time between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading in 2010 and Reading and Triple-A Lehigh in 2011. In 2011, he was named an Organizational All-Star after striking out 43 and allowing just 14 walks over 34 innings combined. After making his Major League debut, his experience in the major leagues has been eye-opening and humbling.
“I've not pitched to my potential. I have a lot left to accomplish. I just haven't done as well at the big league level as I should've. It's more than just performing. It's the lifestyle, the schedule, a lot of different things you have to adapt to and be disciplined about. That's not there in the minor leagues.”
He spent part of 2013 back with Lehigh, posting a 1.89 ERA in thirteen appearances and struck out seventeen batters through nineteen innings.
As the Phillies try to create new dynamics and find their way again, De Fratus has a locked-in mindset.
“From then until now, I've changed the most mentally. I don't get worried as much. I don't get too high or too low. It could come off bad, but I don't care. Worrying won't get you far. Realizing that is a big thing for me.”
You can follow him on Twitter @JustinDeFratus