* RHP Jesen Dygestile-Therrien (Montreal, Que.) spent time this winter with former Cy Young award winner Eric Gagne on the mental side of pitching. So, when the Philadelphia Phillies farmhand looks at 2014 he doesn’t see a 5.58 ERA, but rather a 1.80 ERA in his final 10 outings at class-A Lakewood.
By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jesen Dygestile-Therrien finished last season on such a high note that he wanted to do everything he could in order to keep it going throughout the off-season and into this spring.
The 22-year-old right-hander made it out of the Gulf Coast League for the first time last year, his third with the Philadelphia Phillies organization after being selected in the 17th round of the 2011 draft.
Dygestile-Therrien was excited to get going with a full-season team, but things didn’t go according to plan right away.
When the numbers are laid out all together, Dygestile-Therrien’s 5.58 ERA over 35 games and 71 innings to go with 30 walks and 54 strikeouts between the class-A Lakewood BlueClaws and the class-A Williamsport Crosscutters aren’t flattering. But in his last 10 games after being promoted to the full-season South Atlantic League, he posted a 1.80 mark over 20 innings with six walks, 20 strikeouts, and three saves for the BlueClaws.
“I know if you look at the stats it doesn’t look that great, but it was a great season,” Dygestile-Therrien said. “I feel like I had some struggles early in the year and I finished really strong. I got sent down to Williamsport and that was when it clicked for me.
“I went there and I thought, you know what? Let’s do it. It’s a new beginning, so let’s just do it and have fun, compete, be aggressive on the mound and stay focused. So it was a great season for me.”
When his regular season ended, the young hurler wanted to keep throwing. His arm was fresh, he didn’t have a large number of innings under his belt, and he was feeling good. So the Phillies sent Dygestile-Therrien to play for the Caimanes de Barranquilla in the Colombian Professional Baseball League, under the watch of Philadelphia minor-league coach Eddie Dennis, the former St. Catharines Blue Jays manager.
“I went to Colombia for two months,” he said. “That was a great experience because I finished the year really strong, so it was good for me to get more innings. It was a great experience…
“I had been there with Team Canada [for the world junior qualification tournament in Cartagena in 2011] so I knew the country already and nothing surprised me. And the manager was Eddie Dennis so I had a pitch count and there were only so many innings I could throw.”
Thinking about his trip with the Canadian Junior National Team almost four years ago, Therrien could hardly believe that it had been so long since he last donned the red-and-white uniform. Throwing against his former team during a spring training matchup this year – something he has been able to do on multiple occasions with the Phils – he fondly recalled his days with the junior squad.
“When I pitched against them I felt like I was just playing with them the day before,” he said. “Team Canada, it’s been four years but it was definitely one thing that I’m always going to remember. Every time I talk about Team Canada I get some goosebumps. It’s unbelievable. It’s a great experience.”
Working more on his own than the righty has been used to over his three professional seasons, Dygestile-Therrien spent a lot of his time during his return to Colombia learning more about himself as a pitcher, and finding ways to adjust to more experienced batters.
“You don’t have a pitching coach from the Phillies that are telling you all the time what you should do, so I learned a lot about how to pitch to hitters by myself,” he said. “It’s a league where you have to throw a lot of off-speed [pitches] because they’re waiting for fastballs. But since a lot of the pitchers throw curveballs and stuff all the time, I thought I would throw fastballs in.
“I had so much confidence with throwing my fastball in, and guys took it all the time. They were not comfortable with it, so it was great.”
Upon his return to his native Montreal for Christmas, Dygestile-Therrien shut down his arm for just two weeks before heading to Arizona to work out with 10-year big-league veteran and Cy Young award winner Eric Gagne.
“I’ve known him since I signed and maybe a little bit before that,” the young pitcher said of Gagne. “He’s from where I’m from, close to Montreal, so he just gave me a call this off-season and said, ‘Hey do you want to work out?’ And I said, ‘Yeah of course I want to work out with you.’ He’s one of the best closers [with 187 career saves].”
Dygestile-Therrien spent a lot of time working with the former major leaguer on his mental game, an area where he is already strong but felt he improved a lot along the way.
“I learned a lot about concentration and being positive,” the 6-foot-2, 200-pound pitcher said. “Always be positive. When you feel like you have a hard day, see it as a day that you need to learn about. Say there was an outing that didn’t go like you wanted it to, just think about the things that you need to do next time …
“Every outing you have to learn [and] you don’t want to be emotional when you think about your outing. Finish throwing, do your running, go to the weight room, do everything you need to do, and before you go to sleep or early in the next day, I think about what I’ve done really well and what I need to do the next outing.”
Consistently sporting a contagious smile on and off the diamond, Dygestile-Therrien has no problem staying positive, but realized that he has to do it in a slightly different way.
“I like to smile and I’ve always been that way,” he said. “But sometimes, like last year when I started the season I would think that I had a bad outing – I had some walks, a guy hit [a home run] off of me – but when you think more you can say, ‘You know what? I threw some really good pitches. The guy just hit it and next time I need to work fastball in and I’m going to learn from it. Next time I’m going to get him.’”
Gagne also left Dygestile-Therrien with a new pitch that the hard-throwing righty believes will help propel him further forward within the organization this season.
“My goal this season is to throw a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Dygestile-Therrien said. “Because I went to Eric Gagne’s house and he taught me how to throw a changeup and I have so much confidence with it now, so it’s great. And when you’re ahead in the count you can throw your off-speed [pitches] more often and you can do so many things.”
The Phils prospect used to throw a changeup, but shelved the pitch two years ago. Now throwing a revamped circle change with some big-league help, he has already found success with the pitch during his time at spring training.
“Last year I was throwing more sliders,” Dygestile-Therrien said. “This year I feel like my changeup is way better, so I’m going to throw it as often as my slider. It’s ready for games. I threw it [last week] and it went really well. I got some really bad swings on it, and I love those.”