Former Washington Wild Things pitcher, Al Yevoli, will be getting his third shot at affiliated ball in the spring. After a stellar 2014 season in the Wild Things’ bullpen, Yevoli was recently signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks where he will be reunited with former Wild Things teammates Stewart Ijames and Troy Marks.
It hasn’t always been an easy road for Yevoli, but even with thoughts of giving it all up, he persevered and pushed through.
After three tough years at High Point University, where just finding the strike zone was difficult at times, Yevoli was trying to find a reason to quit. He thought about it, but realized that he couldn’t just give up the game that he loved. He wasn’t finished yet, and all he needed was a fresh start to prove it. After finishing his junior year with a 14.14 ERA, he transferred to Tennessee Wesleyan. He had the best year of his college career posting a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings pitched while helping his team win the 2012 NAIA World Series.
This performance had him gaining notice with independent teams. The Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League sent him a contract after his college career was complete. After driving 14 hours to Washington, Yevoli realized that the team was really just asking him to come try out. He threw an impressive bullpen session and was offered a spot on the team in June. Being signed to a professional team helped him turn it all around. He worked hard and made the most of his chances. Yevoli had rededicated himself to the game and became nearly unhittable down the stretch. The rookie with his 94 mph fastball became an essential part of the Wild Things bullpen by striking out 34 batters in 34 and a third innings. He was named #5 on Baseball America’s 2012 list of top independent ball prospects.
After his great year, Yevoli was signed by the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. During spring training, he did well pitching with the Class A team, but his fastball dropped a few mph from midseason form. After the Braves signed new pitchers before the end of spring training, Yevoli became the odd man out and was released during the last round of cuts.
Determined to continue playing and earn another chance, Yevoli headed back to Washington for the 2013 season. After a rough first month, he settled down and began pitching lights out. His ERA, as high as 33.00 at one point, was slowly climbing back down. By mid-July, he had lowered it to 6.65. The Chicago Cubs noticed his turn around and officially purchased his contract on July 24th.
Assigned to the single A Kane County Cougars, Yevoli pitched well and finished out the season with a 3.15 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 20 innings. He spent 2014’s spring training with the Cubs organization pitching with the High A team while dressing for three major league games. Despite throwing 5 scoreless innings and recording 6 strikeouts and only 2 walks, he didn’t make it through spring training cuts.
Once again, Yevoli headed north to return to Washington knowing that he still had unfinished business to take care of in baseball. He felt that he still had what it takes to make it in affiliated ball, and he was out to prove it. He spent the entire 2014 season with the Wild Things, and thrived in the 8th inning set up role. In 48 appearances, a Wild Things record for single season relief appearances, he compiled a 4-5 record and a 2.92 ERA. In July, Yevoli was named a Frontier League All-Star. He pitched one inning in the All-Star game striking out the side.
Earlier this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks purchased Yevoli’s contract. He was also recently listed as the fifth best prospect signed out of independent ball this year according to Baseball America. They site the fact that the DBacks have worked with him to get more direct to the plate as well as the addition of a cutter which pairs well with his 94-95 mph fast ball. He has what it takes to play at the higher levels of baseball.
A hard throwing southpaw is a hot commodity in baseball. They aren’t often let go, and Yevoli is trying to prove why he deserves to stay around this time. Hopefully, the third time really is the charm for Al Yevoli.