Closing? Carela is lights-out for ThunderBolts
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media July 13, 2014 5:40PM
Daniel Carela, of the ThunderBolts, comes in for mid relief in the 8th against the Frontier Grey, Sunday, May 18th, 2014 in Crestwood. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 14, 2014 2:10AM
Daniel Carela is in his sixth season of professional baseball. The Windy City ThunderBolts pitcher has been a part of three major league organizations.
Drafted by the New York Mets in 2009, he spent two seasons in their organization before moving on to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed and released him twice between 2011 and 2013. He also was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization for part of last season.
None of those spots worked out for Carela, who finds himself back in the Frontier League for his second stint after spending most of 2012 with the Joliet Slammers.
Despite all the bouncing around, there still is plenty of passion for the game for the veteran pitcher who will turn 27 in August.
“Baseball is what we grew up with when we were little,” he said. “This is what we’ve known since the age of 6. When I got to 16 to 17 years old, I really got into it and felt like I could make a living out of it and help my family. Any time I get a chance to play baseball, no matter where it is, I’ll take it and make the best of it.”
Carela has been making the best of it in Crestwood. While returning relievers Reese McGraw and Jessie Snodgrass entered spring training as the favorites to take on the eighth- and ninth-inning roles, it was Carela who surprisingly emerged as the team’s closer.
“I came in with the mentality of earning a spot on the team,” he said. “Throughout spring training and the early games, (ThunderBolts manager Ron Biga and ‘Smitty,’ pitching coach Brian Smith) felt like I was fit for the role and the situation. I took it, and from there I just had to keep doing my job.”
Carela had closed games on rare occasions before this season, earning just seven saves over his first five seasons.
This season, despite limited opportunities on a last-place team, Carela has been lights-out in the role. He entered the weekend 4-of-4 in save opportunities with a 1.62 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 162/3 innings.
“There’s definitely a different mind-set as a closer,” he said. “You can’t go into the ninth inning with the same mentality as in the first, second, third innings. There’s like a button and in that situation you have to switch it on and go out there and do what you have to do.”
Biga, who was on the coaching staff in Joliet when Carela was with the team in 2012, has been thrilled with his closer’s performance.
“He’s been excellent,” Biga said. “He comes in, throws strikes and gets the job done.”
Carela is from New York, but has a thick accent that reflects his Dominican heritage. His family lives in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s one of my goals and one of my dreams to pitch down there one day,” he said. “So all my family can come out and watch me play and see what I’ve been doing all these years to try to help them out.”