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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pitcher-only Dunlap sets mark

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The tools of ignorance are packed neatly away somewhere in Andrew Dunlap’s closet, garage or athletic gear storage shed. Enough of a highly regarded catching prospect that he earned an invitations to both the 2011 and 2012 Perfect Game National Showcases at that position, Dunlap will now work exclusively 60-feet, 6-inches in front of home plate instead of a couple of feet behind it.

Dunlap, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound right-hander from Houston arrived at the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase at Perfect Game headquarters Saturday morning with “RHP” next to his name in the official program; the capital “C” was nowhere to be found.

“I started doing some pitching (after the 2011 PG WWBA World Championship) and I ended up throwing pretty hard and pretty well,” Dunlap said before beginning his workout Saturday. “It was a lot of fun, so I decided that it was something I wanted to pursue. I’ve been working on it ever since and I wanted to get in the loop with the scouts and everybody at Perfect Game as a pitcher.”

Dunlap is not doing any catching at all these days, but he still likes to hit and may play some outfield or designated hitter somewhere down the line. Does he miss putting on the gear and getting behind the plate?

“Not at all. Not one bit,” Dunlap said with a laugh. “I miss throwing people out, and that’s about it.”

It didn’t take Dunlap long to create a buzz among the couple of dozen scouts who were in attendance to watch him pitch on Saturday. He had his fastball sitting at 92-94 mph before unleashing a 96 mph heater that broke the event record of 94 mph first achieved by former big-leaguer Matt Macri in 2001 and matched by several others through the years. Right-hander Clinton Hollon and lefty Jacob Brentz both threw 94 on Saturday.

“I always like to stretch it out before, so I went out and long-tossed … and did a few weighted-ball drills,” Dunlap said after his 15-minute outing Saturday afternoon. “I got really hot in the bullpen and everything felt all right. I’ve been pretty much 92 to 95 in all my bullpens up until now, so hitting 96 was a good feeling.”

The first time Perfect Game scouts got to see Dunlap pitch was at the 2012 PG Sunshine South Showcase in his hometown of Houston in June, and he promptly delivered a 92 mph fastball. He also went through the catching workouts at that event and recorded an 86 mph velocity with a 1.83 Pop time.

“The first Perfect Game (showcase) I threw at, the Sunshine South, gave me a number that I could kind of use as my base,” Dunlap said. “I want to improve and show people what I have now, six or seven months later.”

Scouts got another good look at him on the hill at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June and he came through with a 91 mph fastball; he also did some catching at that event. Now, as 2013 takes over the calendar, it’s all about pitching.

Dunlap has been working out with coach Ron Wolford at the Texas Baseball Ranch, a training facility located in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour from his Houston home.

“I’ve been going out there every day throwing and just getting acclimated to it,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’m really getting ready to go.”

Dunlap credits his years behind the plate for helping him build his arm strength, and obvious attribute he can carry over to pitching.

“I had always just messed around with (pitching) and I knew I could throw hard,” he said. “I knew I had the velocity all the way through the catching circuit and it just kind of clicked one time this fall; it felt really good. I’ve been working on a lot of mechanical stuff, trying to keep my arm safe and maximize what I can do with my body.”

Dunlap had verbally committed to Texas Tech, but isn’t committed to the school any longer. He said he’s had conversations with Rice, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Texas and a few others, but nothing has been cemented or signed.

He is ranked the No. 87 overall prospect in the 2013 high school class and has already risen to No. 23 among right-handed pitchers. PG slots him as the No. 252 overall prospect in the draft.

“People still think I should be behind the plate, just because I have a catcher’s build and I’ve shown good things as a catcher. People don’t look at me and say, ‘Oh, he’s a pitcher,’” Dunlap said. “I’m going to have to show them something that they like; they’re not going to just go with the flow.”

When looking ahead to the draft, Dunlap fully expects to be selected as a pitcher.

“I do think about it and I have goals for the draft,” he said. “Not necessarily rounds or stuff like that, because that’s not really under my control. But I want to be at a certain point (with my pitching) and I want to have shown scouts a certain amount of (effectiveness).”

Dunlap started his Perfect Game career at the PG WWBA South Qualifier Oct. 2-4, 2010, in Round Rock, Texas; this weekend’s PG P/C Indoor Showcase was his 15th PG event. He played on the Marucci Elite teams that won both the PG WWBA World Championship and PG WWBA Underclass World Championship national titles and was named the Most Valuable Player at the Underclass World Championship.

He was a catcher-only at both the 2011 PG Sunshine South Showcase in Houston and at the 2011 PG National Showcase in Fort Myers before expanding his game last summer.

“(The 2010 South Qualifier) really started me out and I wouldn’t have gotten noticed if I hadn’t gone to that,” Dunlap said. “I owe everything that I’ve been able to do to Perfect Game.”

Dunlap plans to return to Cedar Rapids for the 2013 Perfect Game National Pre-Draft Showcase at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium on May 13.

“I’m going to continue to throw bullpens between now and then for teams that have interest in me,” he said. “We’ll just play it out and see how it goes.”


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