It might not be long before Darin Gillies gets called up to the majors. The former San Benito High standout took another big step in that direction when he earned a promotion to the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Gillies received the call Tuesday from his previous manager at Double-A Arkansas.
“It came out of the blue,” Gillies told the Free Lance after he landed in Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Wednesday morning for a connecting flight to Seattle-Tacoma Airport. “I was in Little Rock grinding away, and I’m excited to keep moving on.”
Gillies, who was selected in the 10th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft, has been steadily moving up his way through the minor leagues. After getting drafted, Gilies was assigned to Seattle’s Class-A short season team, Everett, in June 2015. On April 3, 2016, Gillies was promoted to Clinton.
Two and a half months later, he was assigned to Bakersfield. On April 4, 2017, Gillies was assigned to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, where he grew and passed all the measurable for a pitcher looking to get promoted. Gillies was throwing the ball well for the Travelers this season. Utilized in just about every way a reliever can be used, Gillies had 14 strikeouts and allowed just seven hits in 12 innings, and opponents were hitting just .171 off of him.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander added a changeup to his repertoire this season, and it’s been a game-changer in how he can attack hitters.
“It gives a different look to left-handed hitters and keeps them honest,” Gillies said. “It’s one more pitch for them to think about. Last year I relied heavily on a fastball and slider, and adding a changeup was an important adjustment I needed to make.”
Gillies continually makes adjustments at each stop, a big reason why he’s now at the highest level in the minors.
“Everything is feeling really good,” said Gillies, who was rated the No. 25 prospect in the Mariners organization in Febrary per MBL Pipeline. “I’m excited how the ball is coming out of my hands.”
Translation: Gillies’ pitches have tremendous action and movement on them, a must-have for any pitcher looking to make the majors. Always learning and absorbing new information that will translate to the field, Gillies intentionally makes the best out of each situation by studying certain scenarios and picking people’s brains.
For example, when Gillies was selected to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall Ball League, he was always aware of what was going on in the dugout. Gillies often gained insight into a variety of things, whether it was mechanics or physical/mental struggles players might have been going through.
Why? Because Gillies no doubt will experience struggle—like any ball player—and perhaps he’ll be able to impart what he learned from said player to his own situation whenever the tough times come.
“When you’re in the bullpen with eight different pitchers, you can learn a lot of things,” he said. “Whether it’s mechanics or tough situations, you see how players deal with certain situations. I pride myself on being a sponge and soaking up as much information to find ways to get better. When I started this journey, someone told me if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. For me, I’m trying to pick up something and keep my ears and eyes open and pick up stuff from guys. You always find little things that can help you if you’re looking for it.”
Gillies had yet to be told what his role will be in Tacoma; however, he expects it’ll be similar to what he was doing for Arkansas.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to learn from guys at the Triple-A level,” he said.
It’s no coincidence Gillies is moving fast through the minors. He’s got a big league body, a talented arm, and yet his mind is his greatest strength. He has an insatiable appetite to learn and improve.
“As you move up levels, the hitters get better and better,” he said. “I’ve felt great making some adjustments from last year. I made some minor mechanical tweaks to help better refine my mechanics. I did a couple of things on my own, and it’s helped me stay on track. I’m able to throw strikes and have command around the strike zone.”
Think about that for a second: Gillies made some mechanical adjustments on his own. No doubt he has refined his mechanics through various pitching coaches and will continue to do so in the future, and yet Gillies has such knowledge of the game that he is able to break down his mechanics and make the crucial adjustments necessary for sustained success.