SYMMES TWP. – In Cincinnati’s high school baseball circles, Cameron Varga became one of the names to know. And it was for a variety of good reasons: a 10-0 record, 141 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched and eight shutouts including five no-hitters.
The Tampa Bay Rays took notice and made him their second-round selection in the 2014 draft. In that 2014 season, Varga was promoted from the Gulf Coast League Rays to Princeton, the Rays’ Advanced Rookie Ball team.
He finished that first season with a 3-1 record and a 3.78 ERA in just 10 appearances, six of them starts. That much is known about the former Eagles’ hurler.
But how is the current Hudson Valley Renegade, the short-season affiliate of the Rays, doing?
“Everything is going well,” he said. “The Rays are big into pitching and really take their time with their prospects. I’m loving it so far.”
In one way or another, players usually get that “welcome to the show” moment where they find out they’re no longer in high school or college anymore.
Varga’s came during his time in Princeton.
“I think I only lasted 1 2/3 innings and the hitters were hitting everything I threw,” he said. “The appearance showed me I had to learn how to become a pitcher and not just a thrower. I was more of a thrower in high school and relied on my fastball and curveball.”
During extended spring training, the coaches wanted Varga to work on getting his changeup back. According to the pitcher, he feels comfortable with it back in his repertoire.
As he continues to develop, Varga said he is beginning to understand that hitting spots and commanding pitches is just as important, if not more, as blowing it by hitters.
“Getting strikes in 0-1 counts or 1-1 counts is extremely important,” he said. “Three inches might be the difference between getting a guy to roll a grounder out to second or having him hit a double in the gap”
So far, Varga has benefited from this approach. As of July 10, he had made four starts and held a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA.
The next step in his road to the majors is the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League. The Hot Rods play in the same league as the Dayton Dragons.
As expected, there isn’t a timetable for when Varga could receive that call. That decision is well out of his hands. He said the only thing he can do is continue to work on what they want him to work on and then see where that takes him.
“The Rays really work with their homegrown prospects. They aren’t real active in getting that big free-agent signing,” he said. “They really want guys to develop so that when they get their chance, they blow up and become a big deal.”