When the inexperienced Enosil Tejeda was first promoted May 24 to the Aeros, it appeared to be a stop-gap move until a pitcher with more experience was available to take over.
Bryan Price had been called up to Triple-A Columbus, and the Aeros needed help to fortify the bullpen in his absence. But nobody told the young Tejeda expectations for him weren’t very high.
So Tejeda, a right-handed reliever, went about his business (after going 1-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 14 appearances at high Class-A Carolina) as if he’d been called up to Canal Park to stay.
Indeed, he was with the Aeros to stay.
With two-thirds of a scoreless inning Monday, Tejeda lowered his Aeros-best ERA to 0.69. That is certain to have opened many eyes across the organization.
Just how good has the Tribe’s non-drafted free agent in 2010 out of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, been? Consider that veteran pitching coaches such as Greg Hibbard of the Aeros don’t toss around the word “impressive” often.
“I’m not surprised at all at what he’s done this season because I had him two years ago in [short-season Class A] Mahoning Valley, so I knew he had the stuff,” Hibbard said. “But I have been impressed by how good he’s been here, because we’ve thrown him into some pretty tough situations.”
In 31 appearances for the Aeros, Tejeda (1-1) has limited opponents to three earned runs. Even more impressive is that of the 23 runners he’s inherited, only five scored.
“I’m betting he’s the best in the league in stranding inherited runners,” Hibbard said. “That’s how good he’s been.”
Many young pitchers might react to a call-up similar to Tejeda’s by trying to do too much. But Tejeda, 24, didn’t think too much about it. He simply went about his business.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be for a short time or for a while, they didn’t tell me anything,” said Tejeda, through translator Julio Rangel, the Indians’ roving mental skills and lower level pitching coordinator. “I just thought, ‘this is my opportunity, I’m going to do what I do.’ ”
At 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, Tejeda is not imposing and has a calm demeanor.
“He does exactly what he’s asked to do,” Hibbard said. “When you come out of the bullpen, you’re asked to throw strikes. You’re asked to attack hitters. He really takes that to heart.”
In addition to having the right mentality, Tejeda’s effectiveness is aided by a deceptive delivery created by a lower arm slot.
“Even though he’s only throwing 88-89 mph, it gets on hitters [quickly],” Hibbard said. “As opposed to a guy that has a long arm slot, who lays his arm off early and [batters] can see the ball out of his hand. He has a late release that allows the ball to get on a hitter pretty good. He’s out over his front side and the ball comes out late. He’s technically throwing from 54 feet from the plate with his release point.”
The combination of the right mentality and unique physical tools has led to Tejeda becoming the most trusted pitcher in the Aeros’ bullpen. Hibbard and Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez aren’t afraid to call on Tejeda in just about any situation, as he has the ability to retire both left-handed and right-handed hitters with equal effectiveness.
Saturday, the Aeros went with Tejeda when Indians rehabbing veteran pitcher Brett Myers couldn’t get out of the first inning.
Monday, he came on in the sixth inning for two-thirds of an inning to bridge the gap to the Aeros’ established late-inning relievers.
“It doesn’t matter when we bring him in,” Hibbard said. “That’s the beauty of having him down there. The situation — whatever it may be — doesn’t rattle him.”