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Matt Carasiti finds himself at home with Albuquerque Isotopes

Reliever finds his niche in the closer's role to turn his career around

Matt Carasiti has found his groove as a closer in the Rockies' system this season.
Matt Carasiti has found his groove as a closer in the Rockies' system this season.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Carasiti was home.

Matt Carasiti was not at home.

He was both, actually, when his home state Hartford Yard Goats were playing "home" games over in Norwich. The 25-year-old right-handed reliever was born and raised in New Britain, the former home of the Rockies’ Double-A team, but he never got to pitch near there due to the Yard Goats’ ongoing stadium dispute.

After 38 appearances with the vagabond team, Carasiti finally got to pitch in a true home game when he debuted with the Albuquerque Isotopes on July 26.

"It’s been nice," Carasiti said with a smile. "I’m still living in a hotel, but it’s nice to be able to come to the park at a normal time for a normal home game and actually have home fans, which is something I’m not used to this year."

Carasiti never let the Yard Goats’ situation get to him, racking up 29 saves in 33 chances while posting a 2.31 ERA and striking out 43 in 39 innings to earn his promotion.

He has not skipped a beat at Triple-A, tossing five scoreless innings while picking up one save in four games.

"It is a lot different than Double-A," Carasiti said. "It’s a lot more veteran-type players who have good approaches, they’ll take their hits the other way. Whereas a lot of guys in Double-A, it’s a good amount of young prospects that still have some things they need to work on."

Carasiti has quickly impressed the Isotopes with his maturity as well as his skill on the mound.

"If you just look at it from a pitch standpoint, the big thing that I really like is the separation of speeds between his fastball and his offspeed," Albuquerque pitching coach Darryl Scott said. "You just don’t see those types of big separations very often. Usually you’re talking 95 (mph) and then you’re talking about 87-88 slider or an 87-88 changeup.

"Now all of a sudden you take his 95 and you start putting low 80s into the equation, and even into the 70s at time with the split, and hitters can’t cover both ends of that spectrum. And so it makes it very uncomfortable for them and so it almost forces them into a guessing game.

"The other thing that I’ve really liked is just the demeanor. He’s aggressive, but he’s under control. It’s not a high-energy, a high-effort guy that’s hovering around the mound, stomping around; he’s aggressive but he’s under control."

A sixth-round pick out of St. John’s in 2012, Carasiti got blasted as a starter at Low-A Asheville the following year, posting an ugly 7.94 ERA in 20 starts. He repeated the level as a reliever in 2014, but did not start to take off until the Rockies made him the closer at High-A Modesto in 2015, when he racked up 22 saves in 24 chances with a 3.02 ERA in 56 2 /3 innings of work.

"I think just from the mentality standpoint, I think the back end of the bullpen was where I was destined to be," Carasiti said. "I like to go right after hitters. I attack with my fastball and I have a pretty good put-away pitch in my split. I think just getting in those situations late in the game, really helped build confidence and once you get rolling, start getting saves, it really helps my confidence.

"So when I did blow a save, I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, no, this is the end, am I going to lose my spot?’ Now I’m thinking I’m just going to be back out there tomorrow. It helped me get in the mindset of moving onto the next game and not dwelling on what happened the night before. That’s really helped me."

That pitchability that Scott talked about, with his skill at changing speeds, has been "huge" for Carasiti.

"I kind of lost my fastball when I was a starter in Asheville in 2013," he said. "It’s been a pretty big uphill battle to get it back. I had a good one in college when I came out. I think I just got tired starting and obviously I had some mechanical issues, too, that I (since) ironed out. Now I’m back up to sitting around 95 to 98 (mph) with my fastball and then I throw a splitter 80 to 83 and then I throw a cutter and my changeup, which has been a big pitch for me the past couple years."

Carasiti added that he has not been fazed by the veteran hitters in Triple-A.

"You’ve got to have confidence in yourself," he said. "I think that I’m a big-league pitcher. So when I go out there, it doesn’t matter who’s in the box, I’m going to make my pitches. I’m going to use my strengths to get guys out, no matter who they are."

After a rainout Thursday night, Carasiti and the Isotopes will play a doubleheader today at 4:35 p.m. against the Sacramento River Cats.