Dodgers prospects: Nick Nastrini on goals, overcoming yips, pitch mix

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10: A New Era Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap is seen against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at PNC Park on May 10, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10: A New Era Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap is seen against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at PNC Park on May 10, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

LANSING, Mich. — When he was younger, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Nick Nastrini would lay in his bed at night and look up at a set of goals that he had written and attached to the ceiling. Everything from how hard he wanted to throw on the mound to what he wanted to look like with a six-pack of abs was on the list that he read over every night.

However, what became a nightly routine for Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Nick Nastrini was also slowly turning into pressure for him to become someone different than he was.

Additionally, those goals often included things that were often out of his control as well.

“I put a little too much pressure on myself to attain those goals,” Nastrini said. “Now, I set goals that are a little bit smaller and more day-to-day, things that I can actually control. I often ask myself, ‘What can I do to get better today? What kind of attitude can I take out on to the field every day?’ I even ask myself those things on days when I’m not pitching. If it’s the middle of July and everyone is getting tired at that point in the season, how can I go out there and have a good attitude when I’m stretching and be a good team guy?”

For Nastrini, taking a step back from the pressure and focusing on what he can control is also a way that he has dealt with a well-publicized case of “the yips” that threatened to derail his career. It’s a subject he doesn’t mind talking about, but it’s also one that he is not going to let determine who he is on or off the mound.

“In baseball these days, it isn’t really something that is talked about,” Nastrini said of the yips. “It’s viewed as something that you shouldn’t talk about, but I’ve heard from so many people after that story came out telling me they thought it was inspiring. I didn’t intend for it to be something like that. I just wanted to share my story and if it resonated with people, great.

“But I’m actually really happy it reached some people who needed to hear some of those things. That really fires me up.”

While talking to Nastrini after his stretching work inside Lansing’s Jackson Field, he showed me the numbers at the top of the adjoining condominiums that he will focus on when he first takes the mound for Saturday’s game against the Lugnuts. Finding a spot prior to pitching centers him before he’s ready to face the competition.

It’s become a part of a routine for the 13th-ranked prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers who was a fourth-round pick out of UCLA in the 2021 MLB draft. Heading into Saturday’s game, the right-hander had posted a 5.26 ERA in 15 starts covering 51.1 innings. He had struck out 84 batters and opponents were hitting just .215 against him thanks in part to a four-pitch mix that is dominated by a fastball than can reach 96 mph.

“Obviously we wanted to see Nick throwing strikes and that’s trending in the right direction,” said Great Lakes manager Austin Chubb. “His arsenal of pitches is legit and we’re really happy with where he is right now.”

While Nastrini may have the fastball in his arsenal, he said he has been working this season “on turning into an actual pitcher” by having confidence in all pitches, no matter the count.

“I’ve seen this year that anybody can hit the fastball, no matter how hard you throw them or how good your metrics are,” Nastrini said of his first taste of High-A batters. “It’s something that I’ve had to learn and continue to get better at, and that includes throwing any pitch in any count in the zone and doing it consistently with all four of my pitches. I think that’s what’s going to get me to the next level.”

Nastrini is also working with his coaches to make sure he can keep hitters off balance, even though the scouting report may be out on him and what he throws.

“That’s something I’ve really been working on,” Nastrini said. “I want to be able to throw all of my pitches in different counts and not be so predictable.”

Nastrini still has plenty of work to do to reach his ultimate goal of taking the mound at Dodger Stadium. However, he’s already overcome plenty and shown he has the tools of making his MLB dreams a reality.

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“I’ve pretty much been a Southern California kid my entire life,” Nastrini smiled. “I grew up in San Diego, went to UCLA, and then was drafted by the Dodgers, so it’s all been local for me. To be part of a franchise that is so notorious in everything they do and to have gone to UCLA and have the campus be just 25 minutes from Dodger Stadium, that is really special.”