The Reading Phightin Phils are off to a 29-24 start, best for third in the Eastern League Eastern Division. One the Fightins’ strength is the bullpen, anchored by 23-year-old right-hander Yacksel Rios, who is putting up some impressive numbers. Rios has compiled a 2.18 ERA and has surrendered just 18 hits in 33 innings. He also has exhibited pinpoint control with issuing just seven walks and striking out 40 batters.
“Delivery, command of my fastball, and making better pitches,” Rios said of his success in an interview last week. “I work a lot on my slider.”
Rios, who throws in the high 90s with a much-improved slider, has moved back and forth as a starter and reliever in his six seasons in the Phillies’ system. Finally, in his seventh year, the coaches have decided to make Rios a full-time reliever. And he couldn’t be any happier.
“I kind of like it more because of more adrenaline,” Rios said. “I get in in situations and I like to feel important. I like that role of pitching everyday and higher pressure situations.”
Rios noted that the reason he moved back and forth so often was to work on his stuff. Starting games allowed him to work on his delivery and repertoire for an extended period of time, without it being late in the game. It’s interesting to know some of the nuances of the minor leagues to milk the most development out of a player, and the young pitcher sure seems to be reaping the benefits.
The mindset of coming in as a reliever is a bit different than starting a game.
“Right now, I want to attack the zone early,” he said, “I have to get the guys out quick.”
It’s well-documented that the Phillies’ bullpen has not met expectations this year, to put it generously. The unit ranks 20th in the league with a 4.38 ERA and 28th with 32 home runs allowed. They’re tied for third with 10 blown saves. Rios says he does keep tabs.
“Of course, that’s my dream,” he said of thinking about helping the big club. “But that’s not my job. My job is pitching and getting better. I guess all the guys, when you reach double-A or triple-A, you feel so close to the bigs, no matter if you’re doing well or not. But, we just have to calm down and keep doing what’re doing.”
If Rios keeps this up, the Phils will have no choice to call up the 23-year-old, and that appears to be sooner rather than later.