GET TO KNOW YOUR OPENING DAY STARTER
As fans pour into MCU park for opening day this Friday, June 17th to watch the Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees, they will also get the pleasure of watching twenty year old RHP Gabriel Llanes lead from the mound as the Cyclones’ Opening Day starter.
The California native is now in his third summer with the Mets organization after being drafted right out of high school in the 15th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Shortly after signing, Llanes ventured across the country to play for the Gulf Coast League Mets, and over the past two summers has slowly made his way up the east coast, playing for the Kingsport Mets in 2015 and now adapting to life in Brooklyn.
“ I’ve already adjusted a little bit taking the subway everyday and it’s a huge change,” Llanes said. “In California, and basically everywhere else, you’re driving and it’s a change to be here but I love it.”
Llanes has had a steady run in his professional carreer, coming out of Kingsport with a 4.23 ER and allowing 14 runs in 27.2 innings pitched.
Class A short season Brooklyn will be a new level of ballgame for the 6’3” pitcher, who has made it a priority from GCL all the way to this passed extended spring training to work on his mechanics and perfect his favorite techniques, regardless of knowing where he would pitch next.
“I use a circle change up grip,” Llanes said. “I love my slider, I love throwing it into count.”
After watching him all spring down in Florida, Cyclones Manager Tom Gamboa seems to think that the posed challenge for Llanes this season will be keeping consistent from the mound while using his height as a strategy for a more dynamic throw.
“Gabriel is the type of guy that, when he’s on we’ll have a real good game and it’s all dictated by his control. His stuff is certainly good enough to pitch at this level.” Gamboa said. “ His problems in Florida were not so much throwing strikes, but the quality of throwing strikes in the strike zone, and it’ll be Bill Bryk’s job to help him use his height and establish down hill point with his pitches.”’
First-year Cyclones pitching coach Billy Bryk Jr. specializes on power delivery, and after meeting Llanes during extended spring training, earned his trust and was able to guide him through a process of changing his performance in the diamond.
“I watched Llanes from day one and to be honest he was one of the tougher guys for me to work with at first because he had to get out of his own way, but he’s come in full circle and I’m very proud of him,” Bryk said. “His best pitch is his sinker. He’s got a live fastball and as long as he lets his body do the work and lets his arm catch up, he hides the ball from the hitter very well and he’s a competitor on that mound.”
Llanes learned quickly in his training from Bryk that it would take falling on his face and failing a few times before nailing a consistent delivery, but slowly started to see effective results.
After going into spring training with more of a finesse delivery, he now has a more powerful delivery, hiding the ball from the hitter longer and using the full extent of his tall figure, keeping his arm healthy. This advantage will allow him to throw harder and his secondary is sure to be sharper.
“He came to me one day and said, ‘Hey I want to start doing this,’ and right then I knew he was open to change.” Bryk said. “At first he wasn’t throwing well but he slowly picked up and his delivery became so much more powerful and he showed me that not failing once or twice, but three times is what it takes. And then the last time he threw live in extended it was a beautiful thing to watch and I think were going to see it on day one.”
Whether Llanes will be able to efficiently use his above average change up and put-away slider to trick the Staten Island line up is something fans will have to look forward to for the first game under the MCU Park lights.
-- Regina Gonzalez