It wasn't that many years ago that an independent leaguer throwing 92-93 mph would be notable. But the ever-increasing velocity around the game has spread to the indy leagues as well.
Now we have a triple-digit indy baller.
Windy City's closer Danny Carela more often sits at 96-97 mph. But he will pop a few 98s and 99s most every time out, and he's flashed a 100 mph pitch or two in the past month.
And now Carela, who considered retiring after he was released by the Indians this spring, is back in affiliated ball. The Braves signed him on Thursday and plan to add him to the high Class A Lynchburg roster for the final weekend of the regular season.
This won't be Carela's first foray into affiliated ball. The Mets signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 2009 and he pitched for them for two years. He pitched in the Dodgers system in 2011, and was re-signed by the Dodgers in 2012 after a stint in Joliet. He pitched for the Phillies in 2013, making it back to high Class A.
Carela had a spring training shot with the Indians this year. But he tried to pitch through an ankle injury that cut 6-7 mph off his fastball. When the Indians released him, he thought about putting his glove away.
Windy City manager Ron Biga wouldn't let that happen. He'd gotten to know Carela during his time as Joliet's director of baseball operations and had kept in touch with Carela ever since.
"He told me my ankle's bad. I'm not going to do anything," Biga said. "I told him 'Danny, you've worked too hard. Don't put it away.' "
A few weeks later, Carela told Biga he wanted another shot. He didn't care how much Biga could pay him. He just wanted a spot in the Thunderbolts' bullpen. Soon thereafter with a healed ankle, Carela was showing the best velocity of his career. Carela was 280-plus pounds not that many years ago. Now he’s 245.
"It's spiked because he's in better shape," Biga said. "He doesn't have a whole lot of fat that keeps him from getting his front side over and through. He looks a lot better."
Carela was 1-2, 2.27 with 39 strikeouts in 27 innings with Windy City, earning seven saves.
Although he's well-traveled, this might be Carela's best shot at sticking around for a while. With the weight loss, his already solid 93-95 mph fastball now sits in the the high 90s. He flashes a quality changeup, although he hasn't had much reason to use it against Frontier League hitters, as he'd be doing hitters a favor by throwing an 85-86 mph pitch when they can't catch up to his fastball. His slider is somewhat slurvy and not as consistent as it was a few years ago.
As you would expect for a high-90s mph indy ball fireballer, Carela's delivery has effort and some violence to it. That has always made it tough for him to throw strikes consistently, but he does have a quick arm.
All of that led to Thursday night. Biga texted Carela to tell him to come over to Biga's hotel room. He gave Carela the news, then listened as Carela talked to his new club.
"(Carela) said 'Wow. It's 3-4 times, but I still gets goosebumps to be told I'm getting signed again,' " Biga said.
Carela is expected to be in uniform for Lynchburg tonight. He'll have to fight for a roster spot in spring training next year like he has before, but he's got another shot, which is all he could ask for.