Darwin Marrero sees a hunger to learn in State College Spikes returning pitcher Steven Farinaro.
Marrero, State College’s pitching coach, answered Farinaro’s questions and often stressed stepping onto the mound with an “attack mentality” during their discussions last summer at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Farinaro knows he can go to Marrero for advice or guidance as he works on a pitch, but the right-hander said he benefited most from talking with Marrero about his pitching philosophy.
The Spikes coach wanted Farinaro to pitch inside without fear and to throw his pitches in any count with confidence.
“He expects your best from you every single day, and he teaches you that you need to expect your best from yourself every single day,” Farinaro said.
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Farinaro was the Spikes’ top pitcher in 2016, setting a single-season Spikes record with nine wins to help the team capture the New York-Penn League championship. After a rough start to this season with single-A Peoria — Farinaro had a 7.71 ERA in eight appearances — the right-hander is back in State College, where he’ll continue to develop his pitches and confidence under Marrero.
Farinaro describes himself as a student of the game, and he’s keeping that approach in mind going into the Spikes’ season opener against Williamsport at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“It’s a results-oriented job, and it’s all about performance,” Farinaro said. “But at the same time, you can’t lose track of really trying to learn every single day and taking each opportunity as a learning experience, whether it’s good or bad.”
Farinaro absorbed his first lessons on pitching from his father, Jim, who coached him during his childhood. His father loved watching Hall of Fame pitchers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer and how they confidently led their teams. He took an interest in pitching, as he was fascinated by how that position controlled the game, and his son gravitated to pitching, too.
Farinaro showed a natural ability to pitch growing up in California, throwing to his father in the backyard. He strengthened his arm by playing long toss, outgrowing different places where he and his father would throw as he got older. His father instilled that “attack mentality” in him and taught him to believe in himself.
Farinaro also shared his father’s fascination with the all-time great pitchers who dominated in the 1970s. They often talked about Ryan and dedication to lifting weights and monitoring his diet. By high school, Farinaro was a dominant pitcher with professional potential.
“I think the biggest thing was, by far, how much confidence he had in himself that he could carry a team,” his father said. “He had so much confidence no matter what the situation.”
Farinaro, who was drafted out of high school by the St. Louis Cardinals, has learned the importance of controlling the game during his professional career. The lessons continued last season with Marrero with a focus on keeping pressure on opposing hitters with a faster pace on the mound. Farinaro looked to attack the strike zone with his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. Marrero tells his pitchers to throw with “conviction” — to pitch to win.
If they don’t pitch with that mentality, Marrero said, they want calls from the umpire or allow defensive miscues to affect them.
Marrero said Farinaro pitched with conviction last season, turning in quality start after quality start to finish with a 9-1 record and 3.46 ERA.
“I never stopped believing in myself,” Farinaro said, echoing his father’s advice and adding that Marrero has never stopped believing in the right-hander.
The pitching coach said Farinaro takes a professional, serious approach to his craft. Marrero talks daily with his pitchers about how they throw their bullpens, how they attack the first inning and how they prepare. And during Farinaro’s starts, the discussions continue about the opposing hitters and his pitches.
“I can’t wait to see this kid on the mound again,” Marrero said.