Trenton Thunder left-hander Daniel Camarena did not get the experience that he was hoping for when he first emerged on the scene with Double-A Trenton. During a spot start in June he was hit hard, yet his determination and perseverance factored into him gaining a more secure, permanent position with the Thunder just before the Eastern League All-Star Break.
At just 21 years of age, Camarena is the fifth-youngest pitcher that the Eastern League has seen this season, and the difficulties of a young pitcher trying to adjust were very apparent from the start. After taking the hill at home against the Bowie Baysox on August 9, Camarena’s earned run average sat at 7.39 and he was winless in four decisions.
Since that game, Camarena has been energized on the mound. He addressed the struggles that plagued him in the Bowie game and, while in Altoona, emerged with his strongest outing yet for the Thunder, tossing six innings of two-run ball, an outing that saw him earn his first Double-A victory.
And while he registered a loss in his last home start nine days ago, Camarena was spectacular for five innings before allowing a pair of two-run home runs in the sixth. His impressive start on Monday against the Akron RubberDucks garnered a career-high twelve strike outs over eight innings of work.
Even Camarena realizes that his pitching is different in his last three trips to the mound, but said that he thinks the changes made will make him a better pitcher for the long term.
“Some mechanical things,” Camarena said when asked what he credited with the improvement. “When I got here, I was crossing over my body a lot. I was cutting across a lot of pitches.”
However, it was not just the mechanics that have helped Camarena’s success. The 21-year-old recognizes the difficulties that many pitchers face when moving up a level, especially at such a young age.
“A lot of things kept speeding up on me [mentally] and the games were going really fast,” Camarena admitted. “Lately, I’ve been able to really slow things down and take things one batter at a time, one pitch at a time.”
“I’m starting to understand more of the importance of getting ahead of batters,” the southpaw added. “Once you fall behind, a lot of these hitters like to box you up and look for one pitch.”
For Camarena, getting ahead of the batter is even more important, because he does not have an overpowering fastball to blow by hitters. Instead, his out pitch is usually his change-up, and he must be in command of each pitch in order to be successful. His manager, Tony Franklin, noted that Camarena has done just that in his past few outings.
“Daniel had a couple of rough starts there, but he hung around,” Franklin said. “That’s his M.O., to kind of size up the league…by the time he leaves a level, he’s pretty doggone good. I think it’s plain to see why Daniel continues to progress in this game.”
The progress Camarena has shown is obvious, and he believes that his last outing against the RubberDucks was the best of his professional career to date.
“I was throwing everything pretty much wherever I wanted to, no matter what count it was,” Camarena said. “It was fun to go deep into a game like that.”
Despite not being a well-known pitching prospect like teammates Luis Severino and Jacob Lindgren, Camarena is starting to show he can hold his own in the Eastern League. Though the southpaw is likely to return to the Thunder to begin the 2015 season, a strong performance early in the season could earn Camarena a ticket to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by mid-season.