By VINCE PELUSO
When Pymatuning Valley product Brandon Easton arrives in Fort Myers, Fla. for Minnesota Twins spring training the big left-handed pitcher plans on being ready to impress.
Drafted in the 24th round by the Twins out of Lakeland Community College in 2013, Easton spent his first season pitching for the Twins rookie ball team in Arizona last year.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Easton has been back home in Ohio during the offseason, physically and mentally preparing for the upcoming season.
“It’s been great (being home),” he said. “I’ve just been working out and mentally preparing for the upcoming season. I’ve been working hard and plan on coming into spring training strong.”
As is usually the case in the first season, Easton had an up-and-down rookie campaign.
He posted a 1-3 record, which doesn’t necessarily mean much at that level because pitchers are slotted and innings are limited.
He struck out 11 in 19.1 innings work and posted a WHIP (walks, hits per inning pitching) of 1.97.
One of the biggest focuses in the offseason has been putting on weight.
Listed at 190 when he was drafted, the organization is hoping he’ll add some muscle in the offseason.
“They want me to be 210,” he said. “So I’ve been working on my weight trying to gain more muscle and mass. I just want to be stronger and faster. Hopefully, I’ll see increases to my velocity and come into spring training strong.”
Easton said the biggest adjustment was trying to learn what the Twins were teaching opposed to what he had been taught at PV then Lakeland.
“It was tough,” he admitted. “I came in not knowing some of what they teach. But, once you get that down it helps. Once you know the routine it becomes a lot easier and I got the hang of it.”
One of the biggest things Easton is changing going into this season is his arm slot.
After throwing at a three-quarters’ arm slot, he learned he was putting too much stress on his shoulder.
So, he made the decision to come more over the top, which he believes will increase his velocity and keep his arm healthy.
“I was three-quarters, when I started but it was putting stress on my shoulder,” he said. “So I switched to more of an over-the-top arm slot and my velocity went up and my arm wasn’t hurting. It was a major adjustment for me.
“They didn’t tell me to change, so it was something I wanted to do. They want you to throw however you’ve always thrown, they don’t try to mess you up. They always say just go out and throw.”
In addition to a new arm slot and added muscle, Easton is working on controlling the running game going into this season, something he said he didn’t do a very good job of last season.
“I wanna keep people from stealing on me,” he said. “That’s a major focus. If there’s a guy on first and second or just first, I want to keep them from running. I just want to hopefully dominate the game and move up the ladder.”
While holding runners might not be an emphasis for many at the lower levels of baseball, Easton said it’s a major focus at the professional level.
“It’s a big concentration,” he said. “You gotta have the mindset that you’re not thinking about anything but keeping the guys on base from scoring. That’s how you win baseball games — you have to be mentally focused. You need to be focused then let your defense back you up.”
Easton said the focus this year is moving up classes.
He plans to open at Single A Cedar Rapids out of spring training and go from there.
“Like I said, I just want to dominate and try to move up,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good chance to make it to Cedar Rapids after spring training and then move up from there.”