Soto is not going to rest on his laurels
The fastball is the anchor of any pitcher’s repertoire, but Akron Aeros’ left-hander Giovanni Soto has now discovered just how important a good fastball can be.
Soto, a 21-year-old whom the Cleveland Indians received from the Detroit Tigers in a trade for Jhonny Peralta in 2010, threw his first career no-hitter against the Altoona Curve on Sunday.
The Puerto Rico native is presently 6-6 on the season with a 3.73 ERA. He spent last season in high-A Kinston where he went 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA through 15 games. Soto remains one of the organization’s arms to keep an eye on, and adding a no-hitter to his resume will certainly hold the spotlight.
Soto said he was not used to all of the attention generated by Sunday’s no-hitter, but instead of celebrating, he spent the evening talking to his long-time fans.
“There were a lot of people congratulating me, especially on Facebook, so I spent a lot of time talking back to my friends and family members,” Soto said.
Soto was well-aware of the history that was unfolding on the field during Sunday’s game, but it wasn’t until a pivotal play in the seventh inning when he realized he had a shot at a no-hitter.
“There was a high chopper over the mound and I knocked the ball down and got the runner out,” Soto recalled, “And I said, 'you know what, I’ve got a chance'.”
Of course, it’s tough to ignore the lingering thoughts that a no-hitter may occur, which was something Soto battled on Sunday.
“The first seven, eight innings, I was concentrating on pitching and getting hitters out, so the last inning was totally different,” he revealed. “I was just thinking about the no-hitter instead of thinking about what I did throw the whole game.”
Soto’s teammates also knew what was happening. The Aeros avoided their starter in fear that the no-hit bid may be jinxed, which created a different mood in the dugout.
“It was different,” Soto noted. “Nobody said a word to me, nobody came close to me, so I was concentrating and no one was saying anything to me.”
Though words were scarce that day, one teammate made sure Soto stayed focused and utilized his fastball. Catcher Michel Hernandez was behind the dish on Sunday, and Soto accredited much of the day’s success to his catcher.
“He gave me a lot of confidence and the main reason I threw the no-hitter was because of him and the experience he had,” Soto noted.
Soto said that he struggled at times to stay within the strike zone, but Hernandez kept his confidence up. “There were times where I struggled with my command and he got me right back to the strike zone, and he was a huge help during the game.”
Soto is still working on his fastball as he continues to develop confidence in locating it, and Sunday was a good boost for his faith in the pitch.
“I was using my fastball more than I usually do and I was commanding it pretty good,” Soto said.
Aeros’ manager Chris Tremie agreed that the fastball was essential to Soto’s feat on Sunday.
“He did an outstanding job [Sunday] using his fastball, and also threw a couple good sliders and couple good breaking balls,” Tremie noted. “He mixed his pitches up well, threw strikes. His key for him [Sunday] was he commanded his fastball about as good as I’ve ever seen him do it. He threw about 75% fastballs and commanded them in the zone and hat was a big key for his success.”
Tremie said that Soto’s biggest strength is his cutter, which has been his money pitch. Tremie feels that Soto’s cutter in combination with a consistent fastball could be a lethal arsenal for the lefty.
“His cutter, that’s his best pitch,” Tremie said. “That’s his out pitch, his go-to pitch. He’s starting to get his fastball where he’s starting to feel better with it, more confident with it. If he can command it the way he did the other day and still have the cutter and breaking ball like he did the other day, he’s going to be really good.”
Now, Soto is looking to utilize the things he learned from his no-hitter. The most important goal he has set for himself for the remainder of the season is to continue to throw the fastball.
“I’m going to continue working on something that my pitching coach, Tony Arnold, has been telling me – throw my fastball more,” Soto said. “That’s something that helped me out Sunday since I was using my fastball more than usual. But from now on, that’s something I’m going to concentrate on.”
Now, Soto is just concentrating on stringing together a solid ending. He feels that the no-hitter, though memorable and special, is now just a bullet point on his resume.
“I’m going to concentrate on finishing strong,” he said. “The no-hitter is something that is over and now I’m going to try to finish strong from now on.”
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.