NEW BRITAIN - It has become almost standard.
Nate Roe jogs out from the bullpen, throws his pitches and makes his way back over to the New Britain Bees dugout with a zero going up on the scoreboard.
The right-hander made 10 starts for the Bees last season after coming over from the Can-Am League, but a new year has meant a new role and so far, Roe has done more than thrived, becoming one of the team’s main arms and one of its most reliable out of the bullpen.
In his seven appearances entering Monday, Roe has logged 11 1/3 innings on the mound and struck out 11 batters.. Out of the three runs he has allowed, just one has been earned with opponents hitting a mere .175 off him.
“Being in the league last year, I think it helped me to prepare and I knew what to expect coming in and I had an idea of what the competition was going to be like,” Roe said. “I played a little bit out in Australia this winter so I think that just helped with consistency and trying to find a consistent delivery and a consistent arm path and all those things contributed in the development of being comfortable on the mound and throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters.”
Roe went 5-4 as a starter in 2016 with a 5.87 ERA in 56 2/3 innings. This year, his 0.79 ERA would rank second in the Atlantic League leaders if he met the innings requirement. And the Bees coaches and players have noticed a more effective pitcher than the one who joined post All-Star break last season.
“Last year he wasn’t throwing as hard so he had to make better pitches,” Bees catcher James Skelton said. “This year his [velocity] is higher than last year so he can get away with some pitches that are over in the zone. But I think if he were to start for our team now if someone were to get picked up, I think he would be just as effective.
“He can pitch. He tinkered with his mechanics and has been able to throw his fastball on both sides of the plate for strikes. He also has a pretty good slider, changeup too.”
“He’s in an environment that he’s comfortable,” Bees pitcher and pitching coach Shawn Gilblair said. “This is my fourth year playing with him and I’ve never seen him pitch this well. I’m just trying to stay out of his way and let him do what he’s doing. He feels good and he’s emerging as a leader in the clubhouse.”
Aside from another year of familiarity with the level of competition in the Atlantic League and a fine tune of his mechanics, what has helped Roe the most is the development of his changeup. The pitch has given him another option to attack hitters with, especially against left-hander power hitters.
“Command of a changeup has been big factor in being successful in giving [hitters] a different look,” Roe said. “Fastball, curveball, it gives them a 50 percent chance of guessing right and all of a sudden, they have to think about something else.”
Still, he knows the best way to get signed into affiliated ball is through starting. But for now, Roe is focused on the role he has been assigned and continuing to be as effective as possible. He knows if he keeps putting up similar numbers, everything will eventually fall into place.
“The goal is to get out of the league, not just think about getting out of the league,” Roe said. “Obviously, I’d love to start, but I know my role and don’t mind coming out of the bullpen. I’ve been a bullpen guy for a lot of my career and have experience doing it. I know how to get ready. I feel like I’m in a good routine now.
“I’m comfortable doing both. Obviously, it’s more structured when you’re starting. You have a routine you can stick to, but I don’t mind relieving. It’s really no different to me.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach