LAKEWOOD, NJ- Left-handed reliever Joey DeNato has had an exceptional season to date with the Lakewood BlueClaws, but couldn't seem to earn a promotion despite dominating Class A competition. Until now.
DeNato, a 19th round draft selection by the Phillies last year out of Indiana University, will jump three levels, as he joins the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Saturday.
Honored as a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star, DeNato sports a 2-3 record with 10 saves and a 1.24 ERA through 43 appearances this season.
The move may be overdue, but DeNato has kept a solid frame of mind, fending off discouragement in favor of determination.
"There is some frustration because I think this is the best I've ever pitched. Then again, I don't let the frustration get to me," DeNato stated with a look of empowerment during the BlueClaws' homestand this week. "If anything, I can kind of use it as a chip on my shoulder and that's what I've kind of been trying to do. Not trying to let up, not trying to let frustration get to me or anything like that."
The 23-year-old sports a 1.49 overall ERA and a 9.02 K/9 mark in 66 pro appearances since signing with the Phillies last summer.
With excellent command of his four pitch arsenal (fastball, cutter, curve ball, change up), DeNato steadily dominates. Even his efforts on defense are boast-worthy.
"For me, one of his biggest weapons is his pick off move. I think he's got 16 pick offs. So, not only is he pitching well, but when they do get on, he picks them off. It's just another weapon that he has," Lakewood manager Shawn Williams said of DeNato.
His velocity, which typically averages in the 87 to 88 MPH range (topping out at 90 MPH), may be the only knock on DeNato.
"He commands four pitches, throws strikes and gets the job done period. He's done a great job. For lack of a better word, I've been pushing (for) him to get out of here, because he's proved himself here. We've talked to him about that. He gets it. I'm sure it's frustrating, but he doesn't let it show on the field," Lakewood pitching coach Aaron Fultz stated.
DeNato will become just the second BlueClaw to jump directly from Lakewood to Lehigh Valley. The first was backstop Justin Dalles in 2012.
The promotion is certainly a welcome move for DeNato.
"I feel like I can compete at the next level," DeNato shared, expressing his confidence. In an unexpected twist, though, he'll have to skip that level and another one, to get this chance to move up.
This post originally appeared on Phillies Nation.