Pitchers inherently challenge each batter who steps into the box, but some take that competition to a higher level. Carlos Tavera, a starter for the Keller Fossil Ridge baseball team, tends to compete with every pitch.
The senior has been on the climb the last stretch of the season and has ratcheted his ERA down to just over 1.10. He finished last season with a 2.10 ERA and was 7-3 as a starter.
The steady improvement after a slow start, Tavera said, goes back to spending time with his father reviewing film of his early-season games.
“I had a really rough start and I was a little rusty in finding my spots,” Tavera said. “When district started, mechanics-wise I was off, and I started watching film with my dad. We noticed my arm slot was off. I was throwing over the top, and I’m usually a three-quarters pitcher,” he said.
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Going into the area round playoff series with Midland, Tavera was 8-0 on the season. That time spent reviewing and tweaking was well-spent.
Along with revamping his delivery, Tavera has been able to add a little bit of speed to his pitches.
He’s now delivering the ball at speeds between 89-92 mph, an increase of just a few miles per hour from last year. At just an extra five to ten pounds heavier, he said it was the leg weight he needed to increase to help him throw harder.
But he doesn’t rely on his fastball.
“My most effective pitch is the slider,” he said. “My strength, though, is the way I compete, and I love pitching. I compete every pitch and against every hitter.”
Tavera tries to emulate the late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. In fact, Tavera changed his jersey from 13 to Fernandez’s 16 after the major leaguer died last September.
Tavera helps his own cause at the plate by hitting just below .400.
The average is obviously something he wishes was even higher, but he said it wasn’t until the last regular season series against Keller that he started “seeing the ball better.”
“I changed my approach and needed to pick up my guys,” Tavera said. “The young guys were unfamiliar with where we were and they were competing well.”
As one of 13 seniors on the Panthers’ team this year, Tavera tries to lead by example.
Some of his confidence to lead has come from having started pitching at the age of 9.
“I started playing catch with my dad and he started teaching me how to pitch, including some off-speed. When I started kid-pitch, I had an idea as to what to do,” Tavera said.
Tavera has continued to prove he knows what to do into his senior year.
Next year, Tavera will be showing what he knows at UT-Arlington after making his commitment last summer.
Before then, Tavera and his teammates are looking to continue on into the playoffs and show that the ups-and-downs of the season have readied them for the intensity which lies ahead.
“We started off really well and then hit bumps in the road,” he said. “But we’ve bounced back. I’ve got great teammates to pick us up and keep it positive. We’ll keep grinding out at-bats.”