His well-earned reputation in high school allowed Nick Travieso to make pitching look simple.
He threw most pitches as hard as he could. And he threw it by most hitters.
He helped his team, Archbishop McCarthy, located near Fort Lauderdale, finish off his senior season with the 2012 Class 6A state championship. Though he didn’t pitch the title game, he played first base in the 4-3 title game victory against the Pace Patriots.
Pace High grad Addison Russell and Travieso were friends and all-star game teammates back then. Now, Travieso looks at Russell’s meteoric rise into the major leagues, watching the Chicago Cubs shortstop on television, while realizing the same opportunity could soon occur for him.
“You grow up and you meet all these guys and you think about ending up facing them again. Hopefully it’s in the big leagues,” said Travieso, one of the newcomers on the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and part of a heralded pitching staff.
“I really enjoy watching Addy play,” added Travieso, who got his team into the 2012 championship with a near-complete game in the semifinals. “He is an electric kid. He is there to stay. I really look up to that.
“Just knowing a guy my age is someone, who we played high school ball together and he’s already in the big leagues. It’s something to look forward to.”
Travieso’s next step is also significant.
The power-throwing, 6-foot-2 right hander was named the season opening-game starter Tuesday by Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly. The team had its first workout at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Travieso, 22, the Cincinnati Reds’ first-round pick in 2012, will take the mound Thursday night when the Blue Wahoos open on the road for the first time in their five-year history, facing the Mississippi Braves.
Barring rainouts or anything unforseen, expect Travieso to be the starter next week for the Blue Wahoos’ home opener.
Thursday will be Travieso’s Double-A debut. This is a significant leap. But he’s already gone to the top while part of the Cincinnati Reds training camp. For the second year, he faced major league hitters in some selected spring training games.
And he’s left an impression on Reds manager Bryan Price. Travieso’s fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph and he routinely hits low 90’s well into games. For a starting pitcher, that is bringing heat.
“He’s a stud,” said Price, speaking to reporters in Arizona prior to a spring training game. “This kid cannot just pitch, he believes in his stuff
“He just doesn’t back down to people. When you have to try to teach guys or lead guys toward confidence or toughness, that’s a challenge. He doesn’t lack confidence or trust in his stuff.”
Travieso leads the Blue Wahoos starting rotation with Sal Romano, Amir Garrett, Jackson Stephens and Rookie Davis. These five pitchers could all reach the major leagues. They are the Reds bright future.
“You look at them and they are great,” said Danny Darwin, the Blue Wahoos’ first-year pitching coach, who pitched 21 years in the major leagues and led the National League in lowest earned run average during the 1990 season.
“They are all competitors. They all have had success,” Darwin said. “This league is the separation point. The Southern League is a very tough league. They have to learn when you don’t have your best stuff, you still get five or six good innings and give your team the chance to win.
“That is the difference between Double-A to the big leagues. I hope all five get the chance to pitch in the majors. If you look at raw talent and pitchability, these guys have it.”
Before getting drafted so high in 2012 (14th overall selection), Travieso was all set to pitch for the Miami Hurricanes. He committed to the school as a sophomore. It was his dream team. He wanted to be the first in his family to attend a major college.
The ultimate goal, however, to play pro baseball won out. He said the transition from prep baseball to pro baseball is more about figuring out the mental side as much as anything physical or mechanical.
“I realize it is more of pitching and knowing who is on deck, knowing what counts to throw, what pitches to throw, just knowing the situation of the game,” Travieso said. “It’s not just throwing the ball anymore, so that was the biggest adjustment.”
Getting to stay in Florida and pitch in Pensacola has Travieso excited. He spent last year in Single-A Daytona Beach. In 2014, he was named the Reds top minor league pitcher in entire organization.
“First off, (Blue Wahoos Stadium) is a beautiful place to play,” he said. “It is just a beautiful setting, a beautiful area. Playing in Daytona we were also near the beach and the wind was blowing and our fences were closer.
“So it taught you to concentrate more on keeping the ball down. From that aspect, I think it will be similar here.”
Four of the five Blue Wahoos pitchers are rated in the Top 15 of the Reds overall prospects in the latest rankings on MLB.com
“We are really excited,” Travieso said. “Just knowing the arms we have. … Four of us beside Rookie (Davis), we all grew up in the system. Rookie has fit in the rotation perfectly.
“We are all power guys. We are going after hitters, we are going to attack them. It is going to be fun. I’m excited for fans. I am excited for our team.”
Darwin and manager Pat Kelly are excited to see how Travieso fares in his early starts in Double-A.
“Nick is a guy who really gets focussed,” Darwin said. “Even in spring training. I kinda want to see what’s going to happen when the season starts.
“He is a guy, once you give him the ball, you know you’re going to get everything he has out of him. I don’t think there will be any worries about whether you will get the best effort.”
BLUE WAHOOS WEEK
WEDNESDAY — Team will practice from 10 a.m. to noon at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Practice is free and open to the public. The Blue Wahoos will depart soon afterward for Pearl, Miss. and season opener.
FRIDAY THRU MONDAY — Series continues against Mississippi Braves in Pearl Miss.
TUESDAY (April 12) — Blue Wahoos home opener vs. Jacksonville Suns, 6:35 p.m. at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Series runs through Saturday April 16.