Elvis has entered the building...
Baseball is a tough game, but for Lake County Captains’ pitcher Elvis Araujo, the answers are relatively simple – just keep going.
Araujo, a 6’6” starter whom the Cleveland Indians signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, is presently in his first year with the Captains. The 20-year-old Venezuelan left-hander spent last season with both the Arizona Indians and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He finished the 2011 season with a 9-1 record and 3.36 ERA
Now, Araujo has moved his way up a level as he has posted a 3-7 record and 4.86 ERA through 18 starts with Lake County. Though he has struggled with his consistency, Araujo still feels good about where he is.
“I feel really good right now,” Araujo said. “Now, I am working on my mechanics and pitches.”
Araujo is focusing on his change-up the most, though his breaking pitches are also in adjustment mode. Now, his biggest goal is learning how to consistently throw his breaking pitches for strikes.
Araujo missed 2009 and 2010 due to an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. He rebounded well last season and now, he says his arm is feeling fine and he’s able to strictly focus on his mechanics and pitches.
Part of his focus comes from his pre-game ritual. When he is scheduled to start, Araujo wakes up early and eats breakfast before going back to sleep. When he gets to the ballpark, he always makes sure to clean his spikes.
Of course, wearing spikes loaded with dirt hardly weighs down someone who is 6’6” and 215 pounds. Araujo doesn’t let his spikes hold him back, nor does he shy away from taking advantage of opposing hitters. His approach while facing them is a simple as it gets.
“I see what pitch the batter doesn’t hit and I throw it,” he said.
Now, Araujo is learning to face hitters that are more advanced. “The biggest difference between this year and last year is this league has better batters.”
Such a difference is expected as he advances through the levels, but he does not think about promotions or even where he may be playing next year.
“I try focusing on the present,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. If anything, I want to get to the majors.”
Captains’ manager David Wallace has high hopes for Araujo’s potential to reach the majors.
“Elvis has had a little bit of an up and down year, but we’re very happy with his attitude and his work ethic,” Wallace said. “Just his size and stature and the things he brings physically, they excite us. We’re excited about what he can be in the future. We have high expectations for him.”
Wallace believes that if Araujo develops the placement of his pitches in order to command them early in the count, his success will enkindle.
“What’s been happening is he’ll get behind in the count,” Wallace explained. “He’s not locating his fastball as well as he can. He gets behind in the count and then just basically has to throw it right down the middle. We just want him to be a little more aggressive early in the count, challenging early. I don’t think he realizes how difficult it is to hit off of him when he’s throwing aggressively. It’s just a matter of cleaning up some mechanical issues so he can locate the ball better.”
Wallace also said that he sees drastic potential in Araujo’s change-up. The biggest adjustment is the speed of the pitch.
“He’s trying to decrease his speed on it a little bit so there’s more of a gap between his fastball and his change-up,” Wallace noted. “It’s a normal adjustment for someone like him in his development. The change-up is usually the third pitch that comes last in the development, because guys don’t grow up throwing it as much. But we have good faith that he’s going to get it and it’s going to be a weapon for him.”
Araujo’s delivery is still a process in the works, but he’s made great improvement over the course of his development. Wallace believes that once Araujo finds repetition within his delivery, all of the other elements will coincide.
“It’s a little bit tougher, especially as young as he is,” Wallace said. “There’s still some physical maturing he has to do, so he has had some issues with his delivery at times this year. It’s just a constant focus of ours and of his to be as consistent as he can and we believe once that becomes more consistent, he’ll just take off.”
It’s tough for someone who stands nearly 7-feet tall to do anything but make great strides, and Wallace sees Araujo’s build as his greatest attribute.
“His strength is being 6’13”, or whatever he is,” Wallace laughed. “It’s just a lot of arm and he’s got a great arm. We think his velocity will continue to climb as he gets older and matures physically.”
For now, Araujo is just pleased to be playing ball. He keeps a simple approach and knows that resiliency is the key to expending progress. He may be 6’6”, but he knows that it’s the little things that count.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.