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Rancho Bernardo grad ‘figuring it out’

06/27/2015, 1:00pm PDT
By John Maffei

Learning to pitch an ongoing process for White Sox prospect

James Dykstra, who tossed a no-hitter this season for the Winston-Salem Dash, pitched last week for the Carolina League All-Stars.

— The Dykstra brothers, who played baseball at Rancho Bernardo High, have a common goal — playing in the major leagues.

Allan Dykstra, a power-hitting, left-handed first baseman and first-round pick of the Padres out of Wake Forest in 2008, realized his dream this season. Playing 13 games for the Tampa Bay Rays, he hit a home run and drove in four. He’s now back in Triple-A, playing for the Durham Bulls.

James Dykstra, four years younger than Allan at 24, is in High-A. A sixth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2013 out of Cal State San Marcos, James is pitching for the Winston-Salem Dash of the Carolina League.

The right-hander was back in Southern California last week, pitching for the Carolina League All-Stars against the California League in Rancho Cucamonga.

The Cal League All-Stars won the game 9-2 with James giving up three runs on four hits in his one inning.

Pitching in all-star games is something new for James, who didn’t become a full-time pitcher until he arrived at Cal State San Marcos from LSU in 2011.

He says his ascension up the pitching ladder wouldn’t be possible without two people — Allan and Cal State San Marcos pitching coach Pat Hause.

“The turning point in my career was at Cal State San Marcos,” James said before Tuesday’s game.

“As a freshman at LSU, they threw me out there without any direction. So I left. When I got to San Marcos, Pat Hause taught me how to pitch.”

As a junior in 2012, Dykstra was 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA. In 90 1/3 innings, he walked 31 and struck out 79.

He was even better as a senior, going 9-4 with a 2.02 ERA. In 89 innings, he walked 13 with 89 strikeouts.

“James was more of an outfielder when we got him,” said Hause, who was in Rancho Cucamonga to see Dykstra and Johnny Omahen, another Cal State San Marcos pitcher who was representing Visalia and the California League and was promoted to Double-A Mobile by the Arizona Diamondbacks after the game.

“James had a good arm and was very receptive to the changes we suggested.

“So I’m not surprised he’s having success.”

Dykstra was 9-11 with a 3.43 ERA at two levels last season.

Over the winter, James talked to Allan. After that conversation, James made some changes.

“I was throwing all cutters to left-handed hitters,” James said. “I was going away, away, away. Hitters didn’t respect the inside part of the plate, so they were diving outside and killing me on pitches on the outer half of the plate.

“Allan said I needed to make left-hand hitters respect the inner half.”

So James added two pitches, a sinker and change-up to an arsenal that includes a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph, a slider and the cutter.

He hit the midseason mark with a 3-5 record and a 3.98 ERA. In 11 starts over 61 innings, he has 38 strikeouts and only seven walks.

The highlight of the season was a seven-inning no-hitter against Potomac on April 15.

Dykstra never pitched out of the stretch, walking one, then promptly picking him off. He struck out seven.

“I got off to a great start with the no-hitter,” Dykstra said. “That was against a team that killed me the year before — eight runs in two innings.

“I’m not a strikeout pitcher, so I’m trying to get more first- and second-pitch outs. I think I’m figuring it out.”

In his last two starts before the All-Star Game, Dykstra worked 14 innings, allowing seven runs on 10 hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts.

“I’m kind of repeating the Carolina League, but I’m progressing,” Dykstra said. “I want to move up. I want to pitch in the big leagues.

“I realize now that radar-gun readings get you drafted, but the ability to pitch gets you to the big leagues.”

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