RailRiders right-hander Luis Cessa delivers a pitch in an April game against Buffalo at PNC Field. Times-Tribune photo by Jason Farmer.
As pitchers and catchers most often do — the good ones, anyway — Luis Cessa and Eddy Rodriguez got together before Saturday night’s game against Toledo and formulated a plan on how to attack the Mud Hens hitters who strode to the plate against him at PNC Field.
The rest of the night, Cessa followed that plan. He didn’t shake off a single sign Rodriguez, his venerable catcher, threw down.
“He would call a pitch, and I’d throw it,” Cessa laughed. “It’s like, when you have a real good tempo. The hitters don’t have time to think, ‘What is he going to throw now?’ Eddy called it. I threw it.”
The truth of the matter, though, is this: What pitches Cessa throws ultimately doesn’t matter all that much. How he throws them does. Because how he throws them leads to where he throws them.
And for Cessa, it’s all about location.
Saturday night, he took a tough loss. But he threw eight innings for the first time in almost two years. He allowed two runs on five hits. He didn’t walk anybody. He struck out seven. But he missed some spots with his fastball all night. Two of those misses — one that Rodriguez wanted outside dropped down and in to mighty Steven Moya, who drove it into the right field seats leading off the sixth; the other to Jason Krizan, who ripped a two-out RBI double in the seventh, another pitch Rodriguez wanted away that Cessa put middle up.
There were a handful of other fastballs that Cessa missed his spot on that didn’t hurt at all, never mind as badly. He made it work against a team that had Argenis Diaz batting sixth and light hitters like Brendan Ryan and Omar Infante scattered about. A better lineup might not have allowed results this good.
Still, there was plenty to be excited about with Cessa on Saturday night, according to manager Al Pedrique, who has noticed significant improvement in the ability to spot pitches of the man who would likely be the next man up to assume a spot start in the Bronx.
“He threw the ball much better tonight,” he raved. “He pitched like a big-leaguer.”
What did Pedrique like most? The angle of his fastball. He kept it, largely, down in the zone. Given the reality that most every pitcher on most every night is going to miss some spots, Cessa showed an improved ability to keep his heater down.
Cessa did two other things Pedrique often stresses as a characteristic of a pitcher going good: He worked with a good pace, and he got ahead in the count, setting the tempo by being aggressive in the strike zone.
“I’ve been working with (pitching coach Tommy Phelps) in side sessions on staying on top of the ball,” Cessa said. “That was a lesson that paid off today, that I thought was good.”
Cessa’s stuff is great. His fastball touched 95 mph tonight and sat in the 93-94 mph range for most of his eight-inning outing. He got swings and misses on his curveball. He threw his slider as a strikeout pitch and, if this opinion means much, his change-up might have been his best pitch overall.
The book on Cessa over the last year is that he has big-league stuff and Triple-A location. Saturday night, he took some steps to remedy that. They weren’t enough to win. They were plenty good enough, though, to be encouraging.