Paul Ah Yat moves up with Pittsburgh

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The former Iolani and UH pitcher has moved up one level each of the last three years and now is just one step away from ‘The Show’ 

By Al Chase
Star-Bulletin

Paul Ah Yat has moved up a class at midseason in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system for three consecutive years.
So far, the hitters have not been able to prove that he wasn’t deserving of each promotion.
“I was a little leery the first time he pitched for us, but the more I see him, the more I like him,” said Bruce Tanner, pitching coach for the Triple A Nashville Sounds (Pacific Coast League).

“In that first outing, I thought he pitched too fine, too careful. Since then, he’s made progress with each outing. He’s got guts, isn’t afraid to pitch inside and knows how to pitch out of jams.”

Ah Yat earned his first Triple A victory July 8 when he allowed just two unearned runs in 6° innings in a 10-3 win at Tacoma.

With the All-Star break, his next start wasn’t until July 17. He suffered his first Triple A loss.

“I thought he threw extremely well for five innings in that game,” Tanner said. “The other guy was pitching a shutout, so we had to bring the infield in (in the sixth inning) and a little weak grounder got through magnifying the score (7-0 final). Then our relievers gave up some of his runs and that’s not Paul’s fault.”

Each step up the minor league ladder has been a learning experience for the former Rainbow. One of those experiences was overcoming the disappointment of starting the 1998 season at high Class A after reaching that level the second half of 1997.

But the left-hander moved up to Double A halfway through last season and had a different outlook when he began 1999 at Altoona (Pa.) in the Double A Eastern League.

“The feeling I had was to do what I can and keep proving to them that I can pitch. I’ve been able to eliminate the outside things I can’t control,” Ah Yat said last night from New Orleans, where he is scheduled to make his fifth start for the Sounds tonight.

“You can’t control the way people perceive your talents, so there’s no sense worrying about it.”

“He just has to go with his strength against their (opposing hitters) strength and see who wins,” said Tanner.

Ah Yat says he likes to throw his fastball about 80 percent of the time, his curve 10 percent of the time and his change-up the other 10 percent. The key is pitch location and changing speeds.

“He won’t light up a (radar) gun and he’ll have to prove at every level he can get people out. That’s all he has to do. Once he does that, they realize that he can pitch,” said Tanner, whose father, Chuck, managed the Hawaii Islanders in 1969 and 1970.

Ah Yat knows he is benefiting from being on a staff that includes eight pitchers with a combined 48 years of major league experience, led by Frank Castillo (9 years), Bob Milacki (8) and Tim Scott (8).

“Every chance I get, I sit down and talk with them. They are real eager to help and have been real nice to me since I came up,” Ah Yat said.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder admits he probably tried to do too much in his first start for Nashville. It took him out of his game plan and was another learning experience.

“I have to stay within myself, concentrate on putting the ball in the right spot and changing speeds. Then I’ll be all right,” he said.

“The hitters are a little better here and a little more patient. I’ve got to adjust and try not to do too much. I’m learning a lot here.”

“I think he’s going to be fine. There is no timetable, but I think he’s got a shot at pitching in the big leagues. He has to put in his dues first,” said Tanner.

“He’s going to grow up a lot in the next six weeks with us. The hitters will teach him a lot.”

“You hope to sometime make it (to the majors),” Ah Yat said. “Right now, you can only concentrate on where you are, just do your job there.”

Ah Yat, who turns 25 in October, has done just that in three-plus seasons of pro ball.

Entering tonight’s game, his career totals included a 31-16 record and a 3.01 earned run average. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is impressive. He has fanned 437 batters while limiting the free passes to 102.

NOTES

Drafted in the 21st round, regular phase, by the Pittsburgh Pirates, June 5, 1996. Signed June 11, 1996.Named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week (July 31-August 6, 1997) when he won both starts, allowing 10 hits in 17 shutout innings with 13 strikeouts.

Named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week (August 14-20, 1997) when he won his only start, allowing 9 hits and 2 runs in 9 shutout innings with 6 strikeouts.

Was the winning pitcher for the Lynchburg Hillcats in the series-clinching Game 5 of the 1997 Carolina League championships.

Named to the Northern team for the Carolina League 1998 all-star game.

Named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week (April 20-25, 1999). He was 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA allowing 1 run and 4 hits in 15 innings while fanning 14.

STATISTICAL NOTES Led Augusta in strikeouts (119) in 1997.Led Augusta in strikeouts (119) in 1997.Led the Carolina League in shutouts (3) and was tied for third in complete games (4) in 1998.

Led Augusta in strikeouts (119) in 1997.Led the Carolina League in shutouts (3) and was tied for third in complete games (4) in 1998.

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