Nationals prospect Andry Lara continues to be smiling after rocky July


July 26 was a wet Tuesday at Virginia Credit score Union Stadium in Fredericksburg. It was so wet that the low Class A Fredericksburg Nationals’ recreation in opposition to the Salem Purple Sox needed to be suspended within the fifth inning till the next day.

However Fredericksburg’s beginning pitcher, Andry Lara, didn’t even make it that far.

Lara was pulled after 4 innings in one other disappointing begin throughout a tough July. Coming to the ballpark the following day, he was confronted along with his stat line haunting him from the best subject scoreboard like a ghost: 5 earned runs and a house run on 5 hits, 4 walks and 4 strikeouts for a 5-0 deficit.

There he was, although, standing exterior the clubhouse underneath the stadium’s bleachers that Wednesday alongside his pal, catcher and makeshift interpreter, Allan Berríos, with a large smile on his face as he recalled his journey so far. In lower than three years, Lara went from a 17-year-old residing in Coro, Venezuela, to knowledgeable pitcher with a $1.25 million signing bonus, residing and enjoying in a rustic whose language and folks had been international to him — all amid a worldwide pandemic.

“I’ve liked it a lot,” he stated. “I’ve enjoyed it as much as I can, and already I’ve learned so much.”

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Lara is aware of this stoop — his ERA in 4 July begins was 7.31 — received’t final ceaselessly. He additionally is aware of he can’t afford to cease smiling due to some unhealthy performances.

However greater than something, he is aware of precisely what his supervisor and pitching coach in Fredericksburg know — that this 6-foot-4, hard-throwing 19-year-old has the potential to be in a future rotation for the rebuilding Washington Nationals.

“He’s had great starts and he’s had some so-so starts,” Fredericksburg Supervisor Jake Lowery stated. “But he’s a kid that, you know, the future of the Washington Nationals rides with him.”

Lara is the youngest pitcher on the Fredericksburg roster, and his first expertise within the group was meant to be in 2020. However with the minor league season canceled amid the pandemic, he spent the yr making every day journeys between his resort room and the Nationals’ coaching facility in West Palm Seaside, Fla. He was doing the one two issues he might do — work out and hand around in the resort with the opposite Venezuelan gamers.

When rookie ball returned to Florida in 2021, Lowery was the Florida Complicated League Nationals’ supervisor.

“[Lara] was kind of like my horse — he was my ace,” Lowery stated of these first video games collectively in Florida. {The teenager} had all the pieces Lowery might hope to count on from a extremely proficient but inexperienced starter — a fastball within the higher 90s, a rising arsenal of pitches, power and confidence.

Whereas that hasn’t modified as Lowery and Lara moved from Florida to Fredericksburg collectively, the standard of gamers they’re dealing with has. And on this first full minor league season — he began two video games for Fredericksburg in 2021 — that has meant Lara’s outings getting shorter and his stroll whole growing. In 18 begins, Lara has issued 37 bases on balls, together with 4 video games of 4 or extra.

“Still a prospect, still throwing the ball extremely hard, still very young for this league, and he’s kind of battling some stuff,” Lowery stated. “… He’s still trying to find that balance of ‘I want to go deep into games’ but also ‘I want to have strikeouts.’ So it’s a good challenge for him, a good learning experience.”

There’s virtually a nonchalance when coaches or teammates speak about Lara’s latest struggles. To them, it’s not imagined to be simple for a teen to succeed at any degree of baseball, and rising pains are anticipated.

Typically, these pains come within the type of taking months to develop off-speed pitches, as Lara has performed with Fredericksburg pitching coach Joel Hanrahan. However confidence takes simply as a lot time to develop, and although it’s exhausting to think about the towering Lara missing in perception, Hanrahan is aware of how robust it may be to get behind within the depend as a teenager.

“When he has a good game, the walks are down and he’s attacking the strike zone,” Hanrahan stated. “So when he throws the ball over the plate, when he’s in advantage counts where he’s getting ahead, he doesn’t hurt that much. The games that he struggles are things that it’s 2-1 counts, 3-1 counts, he gets three or four walks in there and it’s kind of put himself in the hole. So just being able to challenge the strike zone early and trust your stuff.”

“Bad starts to me are like lessons,” Lara stated. “They always help me get ready for the next one, and all I get from them are lessons. I don’t feel any pressure.”

In Berríos’s thoughts, he shouldn’t really feel any. “He already has the stuff,” stated the 24-year-old, who has performed at Class AA Harrisburg. “It’s just command.”

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Lara has loads of time to work on that as a result of, by his personal admission, his life hasn’t modified a lot because the pandemic started. Apart from one journey to Kings Dominion, which he stated was “cool,” his schedule seems almost the identical because it did in Florida: get up, go practice, play or watch a recreation, go house, sleep.

This yr he has gotten the actual clubhouse expertise, particularly in one which Lowery stated is about half-Latino. Strolling down the steps from the concourse to the clubhouse, one trades the dad rock sounds of Van Halen for the boom-boom drops of Dangerous Bunny and El Alfa. Lara stated he tries his hardest to have the decide of the clubhouse tunes.

“I don’t listen to [American] music. I only listen to Latin stuff,” he stated.

To listen to Lara inform it, he has been away from Venezuela lengthy sufficient that it doesn’t damage anymore, however he’s nonetheless simply a teen who misses his homeland “like crazy.” He has been ready to return each Christmas, and Lowery is aware of his entire household watches each recreation again in Coro, even the difficult-to-access ones.

At 19, although, Lara has huge desires — he desires to make the majors by the point he’s 21, a lofty purpose for even one of the best prospects. With the stretch he’s in proper now, that may appear distant.

However Lara made the journey from Venezuela, leaving all the pieces he knew to take a shot at his dream. If his teammates and coaches are appropriate, he additionally has the best stuff to make that dream come true, even when it means seeing just a few extra tough stat traces.

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