FORT WAYNE – Adys Portillo admits he felt bad when he first learned he was starting a second consecutive season in Fort Wayne.
But the right-handed pitcher understood why.
I had a terrible year last year, he said.
Portillo didnt pout about returning to low Class A. Instead, he focused all of his energy on improving.
As a result, manager Jose Valentin said the 20-year-old has become one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League.
The numbers prove it, Valentin said. Hes been consistent. Every time he goes out on the mound, he wants to be the best.
Portillo is one of four TinCaps at the Midwest League All-Star Game.
He will be joined by pitcher Frank Garces, shortstop Jace Peterson and catcher Austin Hedges on the Eastern Division squad.
The All-Star Game is at 7 p.m. today at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Ill., the home of Kane County.
Portillo has a 4-4 record. His 1.92 ERA is the best in the league. He has 62 strikeouts and 29 walks in 65 2/3 innings. He had a stretch in May of 21 consecutive innings without giving up a run.
This year, I have a lot of confidence, Portillo said. Ive had some really good games. The team, the defense and the offense has helped me.
A resident of Los Puertos de Altagracia, Venezuela, Portillo was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2008. San Diego saw enough potential in Portillo to give him a reported $2 million signing bonus.
He struggled early, going 1-9 with a 5.13 ERA for the rookie league Peoria (Ariz.) Padres in 2009. He went 2-6 with a 4.79 ERA for San Diegos short-season A team in Eugene, Ore., in 2010. He also made one appearance in Fort Wayne. Portillo was 3-11 with a 7.11 ERA last year with the TinCaps.
But its all come together this season.
Theres a ton of difference, Fort Wayne pitching coach Willie Blair said. Weve made some changes in instructional league with his mechanics. Hes got a lot more rhythm in his delivery. Hes able to throw his fastball downhill this year.
Last year, even though he threw the ball hard, it was flat and up in the zone. Hes able to throw his breaking ball and changeup for strikes more consistently. That still needs to improve a great deal. But its like night and day from last year. The other thing is confidence. Another year older. Another year of getting used to that big body of his at such a young age (6-foot-2, 185 pounds). Its a combination of several things.
Portillo spent the offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League. He went 2-1 with a 4.29 ERA for Zulia.
I learned how to pitch to the hitters. How to attack them, Portillo said. What count to throw my slider or fastball and that helped me a lot. Im more consistent with my breaking pitch and my changeup. Im learning how to pitch and that makes me feel good.