The TinCaps have plenty of high-level pitching prospects, both starters and relievers.
But the one who has been the most consistent, the most dominant – the pitcher with the most wins and the lowest ERA – typically throws the least.
Fort Wayne closer Roman Madrid was a sure-fire choice for the Midwest League Eastern Division All-Star team. He has a team-high 12 saves, has given up 19 hits in 32 1/3 innings and has more wins (five) than earned runs (four).
He’s been consistent all year, manager Jose Valentin said. The guy’s been one of the toughest pitchers in this league so far. He’s been perfect.
Well, not entirely. But that’s what has made Madrid’s success in the first half so remarkable.
The 22-year-old struggled with his fastball in the later part of the first half. His worst outing came Saturday, when he gave up two earned runs and was one run away from his first blown save.
But despite recent slipups, Madrid’s numbers remain strong: His 1.11 ERA is lower than all but one other pitcher in the Midwest League with more than 30 innings.
He did not surrender a run throughout the first month of the season and gave up just one before May 31.
Once you’re ahead, and you got to put them away, make sure you put them away, Madrid said. You can’t go in there scared. Just a bulldog mentality. You got to go in there and get the job done no matter what.
So far, he has.
Fort Wayne relievers have a mandatory rest day after back-to-back appearances, so Madrid doesn’t take the mound for every save opportunity. But when he does, with his team ahead, the outcome never seems in doubt.
Madrid’s slider confounds hitters. His fastball hasn’t been reliable since late May, but when it’s on, the pitch is dependable. And his changeup, thrown in with the other two pitches, keeps hitters honest.
He’s got three good weapons, and he’s a good competitor also, which is necessary to be a good closer, TinCaps pitching coach Burt Hooton said. He’s pretty steady. He’s pretty reliable.
Even on his off days.
The slider is Madrid’s best pitch, and it’s the pitch that makes him intriguing if he moves up the ladder in the San Diego Padres farm system. He already has the beginnings of an out pitch, Hooton said, with that slider.
He can throw it for strikes ahead in the count, behind in the count, even in the count, so it is a go-to pitch, Hooton said. When he keeps it down, it’s pretty tough to hit.
If Madrid can hit his spots with his fastball consistently and work his changeup in at the right times, he might not be in Fort Wayne much longer. Some in the organization are surprised he’s stuck around this long.
Not that the TinCaps are complaining.
I just got to keep doing my job and making sure that when our team fights all game to get ahead, that I make sure to shut the door when it counts, Madrid said. I’m always itching to pitch.