Michael DeSanti needed to change course. Like many college pitchers in a similar position, DeSanti’s dreams of the major leagues were thwarted by the fallout from COVID-19. Now, at home with the Ducks, he’s looking to find another path to the bigs.
DeSanti, who grew up on the Garden City/West Hempstead border and went to St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, thought he’d be drafted in the late rounds of the 2020 draft. It was a day he had dreamed of and he felt confident in his prospects.
Then, the pandemic hit, the 2020 MLB draft was shortened from 40 rounds to just five and DeSanti was out of luck.
"It kind of [cheated] me out of that year," said DeSanti, who was pitching at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida in 2020.
Before the 2020 season was cut short, DeSanti’s college numbers were impressive. He had pitched 12 shutout innings out of the bullpen, struck out 10 batters, had a WHIP of 1.08, and held opponents to a .182 batting average. After a successful stint in the MLB Draft League, a college showcase league, earlier this summer, the Ducks gave him a call and signed him on Aug. 10.
In the two and a half weeks since he was brought in, he’s pitched sparingly. Entering this weekend’s series against the High Point Rockers, DeSanti had made two appearances and allowed two runs, a home run, five hits, struck out three and walked two in four innings. He’s part of a group of young pitchers that Ducks manager Wally Backman is trying to slowly get a look at to determine how effective they’d be in postseason situations.
Despite the small sample size, Backman said he likes what he’s seen from DeSanti.
"He needs to work on his command a little bit, but the ball comes out of his hand good," Backman said. "His breaking stuff is good."
By virtue of the Ducks winning the first half Atlantic League North Division championship and clinching an automatic berth in the playoffs, Backman has the luxury of moving his young arms around. He wants to see them in high leverage situations and, with no wins absolutely needed until October, the maneuverability can be unrestrained if so desired.
That group of young pitchers includes DiSanti, Hunter Caudelle, Rob Griswold and Dylan Peiffer, Backman said.
"With the younger guys, I try to match them up in the lineup the best I can and, as time goes on, you put them in some higher leverage situations where they’ve got to face the middle of the order," Backman said. "I think they've all had to do that one time and they've faired OK so far. It’s just trying to make sure you're putting them in a spot where you feel that they're going to have success."
DiSanti said he had to adjust to the Atlantic League’s automated ball-strike system, which relies on radar technology to call balls and strikes and the pitching rubber being pushed back one foot, an innovation debuted this month for the second half of 2021. Both were relatively easy to get used to, he said.
"The only thing I really had to adjust was my curveball for the 61 foot [, six inch rubber]," he said. "That one foot, it makes a difference on breaking balls, but not really on fastballs. I just had to change my release point slightly [on my breaking ball], just to get it over for strikes …. I think I got used to it in my first appearance."
Bottari on DL
Nick Bottari, a Wading River native who the Ducks signed in mid-July, was placed on the disabled list Thursday with an oblique injury. He’s expected to be out for 7-10 days, Backman said. Bottari is hitting .420 with four doubles and 11 RBIs in 19 games (50 at-bats).
Bottari, who was a power threat in college, has shown a different skill set with the Ducks. He is yet to hit a home run, but has impressed Backman.
"I like the way he swings the bat, that’s for sure," Backman said. "He's more of a line drive guy then a power guy…. He’s got some power in that bat. He's also got a good eye. He makes good, solid, hard contact."