Assistant Sports Editor
MANCHESTER -- Four miles per hour.
On the road, it can be the difference between a speeding ticket and a warning. For a pitcher, that extra zest not only improves a fastball but can separate solid college players from pro prospects.
Siena College sophomore Eddie Lewicki has devoted his summer to achieving the latter, one sprint at a time.
After a breakout freshman season in which he led the Saints with a 2.21 ERA, the former Burr and Burton Academy standout has spent the last two months running and lifting weights -- and then running some more -- as part of an off-season workout program.
"This is to be ready to get right back into the swing of things when I get back to school and just compete for a spot in the rotation or spot in the bullpen, wherever the coach wants to put me," Lewicki said Tuesday, between exercises at BBA's home field.
At 6-foot-4, the lanky, soft-spoken right-hander tosses a fastball that hits the mid- to upper-80s with ease.
But weighing in at 185 pounds -- already 10 more than his high school days -- he still has room to grow. His team's daily summer regimen of long-distance running, sprints and core workouts are designed to boost stamina and the strength needed to improve velocity.
"That's what I think working out like this can help me with," the 19-year-old said. "I am a skinny kid and if I can gain just a few more miles per hour it would help me as a pitcher, improve my movement, throwing harder, getting more looks."
Siena pitching coach George Brown said Lewicki, who set off on his college career with lingering elbow issues, bought in to the "aggressive" conditioning from the start and helped him set the program record for appearances by a freshman (20).
Lewicki saw only limited action in the fall because of the injury but responded with a 4-2 record in 40 2/3 innings as a reliever, winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week award in April.
"He went above and beyond what we could've asked of him. He's a testament to what hard work does," Brown said. "He overachieved for any freshman, much less a walk-on."
The step up to Division I college baseball was not without its ups and downs, though.
Pitching against a three-run deficit on the road at Memphis, Lewicki made one mistake against the Tigers' No. 3 batter. That misfire became a three-run home run and a lesson learned.
"That was a hanging changeup and that just showed that I don't throw hard enough to make a mistake to hitters like that," Lewicki said. "I left a changeup up in the zone and he hit it way over the fence."
It was the only home run Lewicki allowed as a freshman.
"Playing [at BBA], there were times I could just throw it by kids, but in college I couldn't do that and I had to pitch to contact and get ground balls, throw a lot more off-speed pitches and hit my spots," he said.
"That's what Eddie does very well, he doesn't try to be an 88-90 [mph] guy. He does what he does and has success," said Brown, a St. John's University product who spent three years pitching in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
This summer, after an outing for Rutland Post 31 went sour against Bennington Post 13, Kevin Bellomo, Lewicki's American Legion coach for four years, praised his resilient, competitive spirit.
"He's determined and he wants to be there," Bellomo said. "After today's outing, he'll be pissed off but mentally he'll be fine with it. He's grown up, mentally, to handle those situations.
"You've got to, as a pitcher. You're not going to be perfect all the time."
In the meantime, Lewicki will continue to round out his summer running circuits from one foul pole to the other on the diamond because stronger legs mean a better drive to the plate.
And a better drive to the plate -- one of the main areas Lewicki has potential for improvement, Brown said -- means more velocity.
"If he improves what he can, he could have a very bright future," Brown said.
And more velocity, even just 4 mph more on that sinking, two-seam fastball takes Lewicki into the low 90s.
From there, the future comes at you pretty fast.
"I think about that, too," Lewicki said. "I want to see how far I can take baseball and I think working hard every day will help my chances of that."