PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Colin Poche's fastball won't light up the radar gun, but it proved to be one of the most effective pitches in the Minors last season.
Poche, 25, is one of the non-roster invitees this spring after completing one of the most dominant seasons in the Minor Leagues in 2018. Between Double-A and Triple-A, the left-hander struck out 110 batters in just 66 innings, en route to posting a 0.82 ERA last season.
Perhaps more impressive than his numbers is the fact that Poche's main pitch is a fastball that sits at about 92 mph.
"I know that guy has an invisible fastball," Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo said. "He's left-handed, and he has a spin rate that's off the charts."
Ciuffo, who spent most of the 2018 season withTriple-A Durham working with Poche, believes the reliever will make an impact at the big league level at some point in 2019.
"He makes some guys look really bad," Ciuffo said. "He's really, really good, and he's going to help this team out a lot in the future."
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Poche, the Rays' No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was a player-to-be-named in the deal that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs last spring. Prior to setting sail for Tampa Bay, Poche said he started to feel there was a possibility he could end up being a part of the trade.
"They have scouts at Spring Training, and you can tell which players they're looking at because when you're throwing a bullpen, they'll put a camera up for you and not for others," he recalled. "You kind of know about it, but at the end of the day, you don't really know."
A couple of months later, the deal was finalized and Poche, along with Sam McWilliams, headed to Tampa Bay.
"It was an interesting situation," he said. "But I'm definitely happy to be here."
The Rays are also happy to have Poche in the organization. It hasn't taken long for him this spring to turn some heads.
Wednesday was the first time manager Kevin Cash got a chance to meet and watch Poche pitch, and he came away impressed with what he saw out of the lefty reliever.
"I was going to joke around with him that he needed to do this better, and I was like forget it, man," Cash said Wednesday. "I sat behind him, and you see that something is different. He really hides the ball well, and when it comes out, he has a lot of that elite-pitch action to the fastball."
Despite his success last season, Poche is focused on 2019. The fastball will continue to be his primary pitch, but pitching coach Kyle Snyder and Poche have discussed developing a split-finger and a forkball in camp.
"We're just trying to get something that has some depth going down toward the plate because of the way the fastball backspins," Poche said. "It kind of seems like it rises to the hitters, so anything that I throw that stays on the same plane and then goes the opposite way is going to be beneficial."
Poche said that it's "really encouraging" to hear Cash tell him to just do what has been working. While Poche's mission is to make the Opening Day roster, he won't put any added pressure on himself.
"It's not something that I can control," he said. "For me, I'm more focused on going out and performing so the people think I deserve that spot."
In just one spring bullpen, Poche is starting to build his case to break camp with the Rays.