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After 34 innings, Double-A Montgomery reliever Juan Salas' ERA still sits at 0.00. The Devil Rays converted the 27-year-old righthander from third base to the mound in the middle of the 2004 season, and because Salas is no longer just a one-speed pitcher, they are finally reaping the rewards.
Salas consistently showed an 80 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale as an infielder, and he regularly tops out at 96 mph on the hill. But he was pretty much all fastballs all the time before this season--or at least that's the one pitch he was most effective with.
Salas has now added a hard, 85-86 mph slider to his repertoire and the results in the Southern League have been staggering--and so has his command.
In those 34 innings, Salas has a 52-14 strikeout-walk ratio, and opposing hitters are batting just .110 against him.
"He's got a lot of natural late arm-side run on his fastball," a scout from an American League club said. "He gets around on his slider some, but overall he's shown he's got a pretty good idea of when and how to use it."
Salas is currently tied for third in the SL in saves with 14. He's been equally devastating on left and righthanded hitters, with righties batting .123 and lefties hitting a miniscule .081. The Rays are probably glad no one bit on Salas in last year's Rule 5 draft, as they left the Dominican native exposed.
"What he's done up to this point certainly is impressive," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "Sometimes it takes time for those conversion guys just in terms of body awareness. But he's come a long way from when we first moved him over. He's not just a power arm anymore."
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