Beato, 22, was the 32nd overall pick in the first round of the 2006 first-year player draft and pitched in the 2007 Futures Game in San Francisco. However, he has yet to pitch up to the high expectations that come with being a No. 1 pick. Part of the problem has been injuries as he missed about a month last year with shoulder inflammation and could not get his fastball over 90 mph.
"Last year I didn't have a fastball," Beato said. "This year, I've come back healthy, and it's one of the things I want to gain back this year, getting my velocity back where it was when I first signed, and keep it until the end of the year."
For at least one night, that velocity was back. Beato was regularly popping the mitt at 92 mph on the stadium radar gun, which we were told has been a couple ticks slow this year. In addition to that, he was firing strikes early and often in his second consecutive quality start.
In trying to return to the form in 2007 that led to his futures' game honors, Beato has some familiar help in pitching coach Kennie Steenstra. Steenstra was Beato's pitching coach in Delmarva two years ago when Beato made his full season debut at just 20 years old.
Steenstra said he wants Beato to show some more intensity on the mound.
"He's had a little bit of a problem the last couple of years coming out a little lackadaisical sometimes," Steenstra explained. "I don't think it's anything where he's not competitive, but his demeanor is he's kind of a laid back guy. At times he's kind of come across that way on the mound as well, instead of having that bulldog mentality and attacking people."
This "bulldog" mentality is what was on display tonight, as Beato did not walk a batter until the fifth inning and only missed the strike zone seven times in the first three innings, including a ball-free third inning, and Steenstra told ITO that he liked Beato's intensity.
"I don't think he's ever going to be a guy that's going to be flipping over chairs or busting up lockers, but that's not what we're looking for," Steenstra said.
"You could tell he was already focused in. I usually try to keep guys a little bit loose in the bullpen and joked around a little bit today and he wasn't laughing at any of my jokes, so I knew he was already locked in then."
While the consensus was Thursday night's start was Beato's best of season so far and his intensity was where it needed to be, Steenstra said his pitcher can also get "mechanical" at times. A few times tonight, more noticeably in the later innings of Beato's start, he was falling off the mound.
"He is a big guy and has a stiff delivery at times, but we really try to focus on keeping his head still and then getting out over the front leg," Steenstra said. "You'll see him out on the mound once in a while spin off, and that's when he'll land with a stiff leg and he has to get his body across."
It seems like a simple fix, but one of the toughest things to do for a young pitcher is to repeat his delivery on every pitch, and it's even more difficult for a 6-6, 230 pound pitcher. The bigger you are, the more moving parts you will have. A clean, repeatable delivery, should lead to more consistent strike-throwing, one more thing that will help Beato achieve that "bulldog" status in attacking the opponents.
While Beato has not given up more than three earned runs in a start this season, this was by far his best start of the season in that every pitch was on. He was able to throw any pitch in any count.
"This is probably the best I've seen him throw all year," manager Richie Hebner said of Beato.
To be a top prospect in the organization again, Beato will need to repeat nights like Wednesday night.