Potomac reliever Juan Frias has devised a way to get ready in almost half the time of other relievers. He simply holds onto two balls when he's warming up -- one in his hand and one in his glove -- and throws them in quick succession.
Whether it's his warm-up routine or just the experience he's picked up in his sixth year of professional baseball, the left-hander is thriving in a relief role. He's yielded just one earned run in 15 innings spread over six appearances and leads the team with a 0.60 earned run average.
"When I start, I throw a lot of pitches," said Frias, who came up with the two balls at a time approach on his own. "It's different, now I get less time to get ready."
Frias's routine even rubbed off on fellow reliever Chuy Mendoza, who warms up with two balls when he has little time to prepare. Mendoza is the second out of the bullpen and fourth on the pitching staff with a 1.74 ERA.
In his first stint in Class A, Frias said he made the adjustment to tougher hitting quickly by getting more command of his pitches. He said he is more successful this year keeping his fastball and breaking ball down in the strike zone.
A 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic, Frias never really came out of the bullpen before this season. Seventy-five of his 94 appearances prior to 2004 were as a starter. He posted solid numbers for the Reds organization last season, going 10-10 with a 3.54 ERA at Class A Dayton -- third among the organization's pitchers in wins and fifth in ERA. In 2002, his 13 wins were tied for the best in the organization.
But Frias lost out in a numbers game at Potomac, with a number of top pitching prospects ahead of him in the pecking order. He did start once early in the season, giving up two hits and no runs in four innings.
"I don't feel bad about it [not starting], all the other pitchers are doing well," said Frias, who is 29-26 in a career dating from 1999.