Baseball has provided many memorable pinch-me moments for 2009 Buhach Colony graduate Dylan Floro. Pitching in the postseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season ranks near the top.
One year after bouncing between the minors and the majors, Floro found himself on the mound for the Dodgers with two outs in the ninth inning in the first game of National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s awesome to get that kind of experience,” Floro said. “Especially in Game 1, in that type of situation, coming in in the ninth to get the final out. That game-one victory was huge.”
After defeating the Braves in four games of the NLDS, Floro and the Dodgers will begin the National League Championship Series against the Brewers on Friday in Milwaukee as Los Angeles tries to earn a second straight World Series berth.
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The first game starts at 5:09 p.m. and will be televised on FS1.
“Oh, it’s an unbelievable experience. I’ve been watching the playoffs on TV since I was little,” Floro said. “Seeing the crowd and being there in person is crazy. The crowd in Atlanta was loud and then the crowd at home, it’s just a different feeling you get inside of you.”
It’s been a breakthrough season for Floro.
The right-hander made his Major League Baseball debut for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016. Last year, he was promoted five times to the majors with the Chicago Cubs but didn’t stick around long enough to unpack his suitcase. He made just three appearances with the Cubs last year before he was designated for assignment in July.
The Dodgers claimed him off waivers and sent him to the minors.
“I’m more confident than I was last year,” he said. “I was up and down last year, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I was trying to spend at least a week up when I was called up. It’s a process. You have to believe in yourself.”
Floro signed with the Cincinnati Reds during the offseason as a free agent. He saw a path to the majors with the Reds and he took advantage when he got his chance.
Floro went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 25 appearances with the Reds. The right-hander finally felt comfortable after making the transition from a starter to a reliever two years ago. He proved he could consistently get hitters out.
“This year my fastball has been up a little bit,” Floro said. “I’ve been able to throw my two-seam over the plate. I can move my four-seam up in the zone. I’ve gotten more (strikeouts) and more swing-and-misses and I’m still able to get a majority of ground balls.”
Floro’s fastball has had an uptick in velocity from 91-92 mph to 94-95 mph.
Floro says he doesn’t know why. He hasn’t made any mechanical changes. He says he worked hard in the offseason and concentrated on strengthening his forearms.
The Dodgers kept their eye on Floro and made a trade with the Reds to reacquire him in late July.
“When I talked to him after the trade, I said, ‘Look, I know it was a disappointing experience for you, getting claimed by us and not getting up, getting outrighted,’” Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi told the Orange County Register after the trade. “‘You wanted to find a better opportunity and you found it because you went to a new team, you made the team and you pitched well. And you’re a big-leaguer now.’”
Floro has excelled for the Dodgers, compiling a 3-1 record to go along with a 1.63 ERA in 29 games. Floro is averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings since coming over to the Dodgers.
“I didn’t see the trade coming,” Floro said. “I signed with Cincinnati because I thought I had a good opportunity to make the team if they gave me a chance. If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year if I saw the Dodgers picking me up, I would have said no because they (designated me for assignment). But it’s been great so far. I can’t complain. Dave Roberts has put me in during big situations.”
Floro believes because of the experience many of his Dodgers teammates gained playing in a World Series last year, the team has a great shot to return to the big stage.
Floro already has taken part in champagne celebrations after the Dodgers won the National League West championship and the NLDS. He wouldn’t mind burning his eyes with a little more champagne a couple more times.
Floro knows where he’s from and he now knows he belongs on the big stage.
“You’ve got to know you belong,” he said. “You have to know you can do it. It doesn’t matter where you’re from if you put in the work if you put in the hours. Yeah, it’s little Atwater and Merced, but you have to take advantage of your opportunities.
“The big thing now is I want the ball. I want Roberts to call and put me in, no matter what the situation is. I want to pitch. I know I can do it.”