By Dave Wagner
Gabe DeHoyos was a mainstay in the starting rotation during his days at Eastern New Mexico University.
In his third season of professional baseball, the 6-foot, 220-pound right-hander has made a successful transition to closer.
The Kansas City Royals signed the Artesia native to a contract on July 16 and sent him to their Class A Midwest League farm club at Burlington, Iowa. He’s worked 12 2/3 innings in nine relief appearances for the Bees, going 1-1 while allowing 10 hits and nine walks with 15 strikeouts.
He hasn’t had a save opportunity for Burlington to this point.
DeHoyos spent parts of three summers at Schaumburg, Ill., in the Class A independent Northern League before signing with the Royals. He was 3-2 with nine saves in 22 appearances and a 3.86 earned run average this summer at Schaumburg and made the league’s South Division all-star team.
“I’ve been a starter all my life until I got to the Northern League,” DeHoyas said. “I started out in the bullpen (at Schaumburg), then got promoted to the set-up role and then to the closer’s role.
“I just wanted to do whatever it took for me to play.”
DeHoyos, who at 24 is the third-oldest player on the Burlington roster, said the talent level is different in the two leagues.
“There’s a lot more raw talent at this level,” he said. “In the Northern League, I think there’s more knowledge of the game (by the players).”
At Eastern, DeHoyos struck out a school-record 204 batters in 193 1/3 innings, going 16-10 with a 3.86 ERA. He had five shutouts and 16 complete games in 29 starts for the Greyhounds, and earned six saves in 17 trips out of the bullpen.
Veteran ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said he isn’t surprised to see DeHoyos in a relief role now, adding that he was simply needed more as a starter by the Hounds.
“I really felt like if he kept his weight under control, and his physical conditioning, he’d have an excellent chance to do well (at the pro level),” Clabaugh said. “Gabe was a two-pitch guy (fastball and curveball). With the movement his fastball had, it’s conducive to closing.
“It does my heart good because Gabe’s a ‘baseball’ guy.”
DeHoyos said he worked out more diligently during the past off-season than before is paying off. He said he’s added 3-4 mph to his fastball, which has been clocked as high as 96 mph now after he was consistently in the 89-90 range in college.
“I’ll close as long as I can,” he said. “Whatever it takes for me to get to the next level. I like closing and I like setting up.”