Healthy Michael Ynoa reports to camp

Healthy Michael Ynoa reports to camp
February 21, 2013, 10:30 am
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PHOENIX -- Michael Ynoa stands six-foot-seven inches tall, has piercing blue eyes, and signed an Oakland record $4.25 million international contract at the age of 16. Upon being signed he was touted as the next Felix Hernandez. Scouts raved about him, writers glorified him, and A's fans clamored to see him.

It almost seemed too good to be true.

As a result, when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training and he wasn't there, it felt like an episode of the popular MTV show "Catfish." Unlike the MTV reality show, Ynoa did finally arrive on Thursday, and as advertised.

It turns out Ynoa had a case of the chicken pox and couldn't make it to camp. He spent extra time at home in the Dominican Republic to get healthy. When he walked into the clubhouse for the first time on Thursday it was sort of like meeting Santa Claus.

"He was ducking to get into the training room," Melvin said. "I didn't realized he was that size. I think he could probably just reach out and put the ball in the catcher's mitt. He extends well enough."

The legend of Ynoa is indeed real. As were the chicken pox.

"It was bad," Ynoa said. "I feel great, healthy, and now I will try to keep doing my best and keep going."

The pesky pox weren't the only things jeopardizing his health. Now 21, Ynoa is fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that set back his development. He had the operation at 18-years-old, and didn't return to pitching professionally until last season. He pitched in the Arizona Rookie League and Low-A Vermont last year. He was a combined 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA in 14 games, but he hadn't pitched since 2010.

Ynoa is excited to be in camp and doesn't think he'll be ready to pitch in a game for another two weeks. The teammate he is most excited about watching pitch in person is fellow Dominican Republic native Bartolo Colon. Ynoa says he grew up watching the soon to be 40-year-old veteran on the mound.

He also kept his eye on another prominent big league pitcher.

"I watched video of games of Roy Halladay," Ynoa said.

Inspired by Halladay's work on the mound, he started learning what he calls a "little cutter." He says he used the pitch in three games last season. Ynoa also throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up. With everything behind him, his goals are pretty simple.

"Work hard, keep going, and just keep practicing and working at what I have to do from now on," Ynoa said.

"He's had some injury problems and the trick for him is to be healthy," Melvin said. "Everyone says it's pretty special when he is healthy. I haven't seen it yet so I'm looking forward to that."

With Ynoa's arrival the A's finally have all of their players in big league camp. It will be interesting to see if Ynoa can transition from the likes of a tall tale, to that of a tall Major League pitcher.

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