Kyle Dohy threw his first change-up when he was 7 years old.
The Phillies prospect hadn't been throwing it this year, but it wasn't because he forgot how to. It was because the relief pitcher dominated low A and high A so easily that he didn't need to.
Now with double-A Reading, he has realized he desperately needs it — and more.
"In my professional career, I haven't really needed it. In double A, this has been my strikeout pitch," Dohy said Wednesday afternoon. "It seems like hitters are starting to see my slider a little bit more at the plate, so that change-up has really been my weapon."
Dohy seemed to have no weapons at all in his last two outings: five earned runs in 1.2 innings Sunday against Binghamton, then three earned runs in 0.2 innings Wednesday night against Trenton. It was all self-inflicted, too, since Dohy gave up just two hits over those two outings but walked a whopping six.
"I've been walking a few more guys, so those walks may not happen at the lower levels, because hitters are a little more impatient [there]," he said. "And then when guys are on, I'm just giving up a couple hits that cash in runs. I think everything will even out soon."
Dohy clearly remains unperturbed, and understandably so, given the overall season he's had.
With a revamped fastball in the mid-90s, a brand new slider, and his recently reintroduced change-up, the 21-year-old reliever has skyrocketed through the Phillies' minor-league ranks this summer despite being just a 16th-round pick a year ago.
He had a 0.80 ERA and 47 percent strikeout rate in 24 appearances for low-A Lakewood, then a 1.64 ERA and 45 percent strikeout rate in seven games for high-A Clearwater before being promoted to Reading on July 14.
Things haven't gone so smoothly since then. In double A, Dohy's strikeout rate has fallen to 33 percent and his ERA is an ugly 7.00. Opponents are hitting only .153 off him, but the combination of an insane walk rate (24 percent) and three home runs allowed has given Dohy a few shell-shock moments.
On Wednesday, he loaded the bases with three walks on just 13 pitches. The crowd applauded when manager Greg Legg finally emerged from the dugout to pull Dohy. All three runners eventually scored.
Legg, however, hasn't lost his faith in his new reliever, attributing his recent struggles to youth and fatigue.
"As far as stuff-wise, he has the stuff to [go to the majors] now," said Legg. "It's more of just command of all the pitches, where he can throw them wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and then we've got a big-leaguer."
Dohy likely still has a few bullpen outings ahead of him in the waning days of this season, giving him a chance to finish an all-in-all remarkable year on a high note.
He said that in light of his astronomical rise through the minor-leagues as well as the Phillies' prospect rankings (he's up to No. 22, per MLB.com), he's taking the tough lessons of recent weeks as inevitable products of arriving in double A merely a year after beginning his professional career.