Could lightning strike twice?
The Peninsula Oilers are certainly hoping so.
By adding Oscar Serrato to this season's pitching staff, Oilers manager Brian Green said the team looks to tap the same gene pool that came up big last year on the mound in Serrato's twin brother, Juan.
"Both kids are big time kids," Green said. "They both are hard workers and come from a good family."
Oscar pitched his first game for the Oilers Thursday night against the Bay Area (California) Bears, and although he came away with a loss, he logged four strike-outs in five innings with just one earned run. He said he came to the peninsula on his brother's recommendation, to improve his arm and to better his game.
"I didn't have a lot of innings," Oscar said. "That's why I came up here. To get comfortable with my slot."
Juan, one of last year's pitchers, came to the Oilers program from Riverside, Calif., after having only pitched five innings, and went on to be picked up in the Major League Baseball draft in the 13th round by the San Francisco Giants.
Early speculations are that Oscar has just as much of the right stuff as his brother, and maybe even more. Juan said he believed his younger sibling -- by just a minute -- stood to see just as much success after pitching for the Oilers for a summer.
"Maybe even more," Juan said.
Oilers catcher Blake Jones said Oscar's offerings compare favorably with the best pitchers he's seen.
"I've caught three pitchers at school (Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, Ala.) who got drafted. He's as good as any of them."
Both Oscar and Juan came to the Oilers after pitching minimal innings with the three-time California Community College Athletic Association Champion Riverside Community College Tigers -- Oscar had pitched 10 innings this past spring and Juan, only five the previous spring. They both had surgeries that abbreviated their seasons and set them back in their development.
Green said he took this into consideration when selecting Juan for the 2001 roster. Juan had just had Tommy Johns surgery -- a reconstructive procedure that reattaches ligaments to the elbow when stress has limited motion -- and was just at the point of recovering.
"I took a gamble bringing him up here," Green said.
The goal, Green said, was to improve Juan's control and add some speed to his 90-plus mile-per-hour burners. Along the way, he pitched a 3-3 record, including the Oiler's only shutout of the season and a win against Team USA.
"Juan had a great arm," he said. "His velocity was about 90 to 91. By the end of the summer, his control improved and he was pitching about 94."
Oscar had surgery to repair bone spurs in his elbow this spring at Riverside. But Green said because of Juan's growth last summer, when the opportunity presented itself for Oscar to come up, the answer was simple.
"For me, it was a no-brainer," Green said. "If Juan said, 'He's ready to come up,' I was going to try to get him here."
Green said Oscar will have to focus on adjusting his pitching motion during the season and build his confidence in his mid-80's fast-ball. Green said he has set some goals for the 20-year-old.
"He's got a great arm," Green said. "He'll hurry to the plate and drag his arm. We're going to have to get him to understand that his fastball is good enough to win up here, and we're going to get him the innings."
Bob Miller, manager for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and Oscar's pitching coach at Riverside, has had the opportunity to watch both Serratos in action. He said the brothers offer two completely different kinds of strategies on the mound.
"Juan tries to overpower you," he said. "Oscar is more of a finesse pitcher. Juan has an overpowering fastball, and he has a good slider, but he doesn't have the change of speed. Oscar doesn't have the fast ball, but he has much better secondary pitches."
Green said Oscar's repertoire includes a sinking fastball, a slider, a change-up and a splitter.
Jones said Oscar's strength comes in his ability to get around the plate with this variety of pitches. And he said Oscar can only get better.
"Because his split-finger moves a lot, it's hard to catch," he said. "That means it's hard to hit. His fast ball runs into right-handers. When he gets ahead in the count, he throws everybody out."
Oscar said he was nervous on his first outing as an Oiler and wants to overcome that initial jittery feeling so he can play. He said he had other goals for himself, as well.
"I want to get real healthy and have some more consistency with my pitches," he said. "I want to be able to get used to all the fans and the adrenaline that get's flowing out there. I want to have the mind-set that I can do anything I put my mind to."
Juan signed a $150,000 contract with the Giants after just one summer with the Oilers and Miller and Green both see the opportunity for Oscar to repeat his brother's fortune.
Miller said focusing past the crowd and pitching the same game over and over are the first steps.
"Oscar definitely has potential on the mound," he said. "He just has to be able to make adjustments in the middle of the ball game. Can you regroup? Can he keep doing that day in and day out?
"If Oscar is able to maximize his own abilities, he's going to be a great pitcher."
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