NEW BRITAIN - Itâ€™s hard not to take notice of what Brian Dupra has been doing on the mound. His opponents sure have.
The New Britain Bees right-hander has become one of the most effective starters in the Atlantic League through the early part of the season. When the Bees need a quality outing from one of their starting pitchers, Dupra has that under control.
Through four starts this season, the 29-year-old has gone five innings or more in each - the only one of the teamâ€™s starters to do so thus far - while giving up just two runs or fewer. His 20 2/3 innings pitched rank ninth in the league and his 2.18 ERA puts him seventh.
Dupra has done this through the teamâ€™s early season struggles and with a lack of run support, making it all the more impressive. Out of New Britainâ€™s five wins, Dupra has two of them.
â€śIâ€™m just trying to get some rhythm and hit some spots and command a couple of pitches in the zone and I feel like Iâ€™ve been able to do that effectively,â€ť Dupra said. â€śThere are some times when I put myself in tough counts and build up my pitch count more than I need to. But knowing who the hitters are, Iâ€™m just trying to attack them up in the zone and make them force your hand.â€ť
Last season, Dupra appeared in 21 games for the Bees with 19 starts, but arm issues sidelined him and cost him a month between the end of July to the end of August and he finished with a 4-3 record and 4.51 ERA. Some of it was a byproduct of getting back into a starting role, while some of it was just fatigue. But with that now behind him, what Dupra has been doing has not been a surprise to anyone in the organization.
â€śDupra - God - heâ€™s been just what I expected,â€ť Bees manager Stan Cliburn said. â€śHe might not always have his best stuff, but he finds a way to get people out. Itâ€™s not always about having your best stuff, itâ€™s about how you make adjustments and you pitch and thatâ€™s what heâ€™s done so far.â€ť
On Tuesday afternoon as New Britain sought to snap a seven-game losing streak, Dupra took to the hill and did what has been common place so far. He delivered five strong innings and gave up two runs, while striking out five. The Bees ended up winning the game in extra innings, but blew another late lead along the way to wipe a victory off Dupraâ€™s stat sheet.
Yet the right-hander insists his own personal wins and losses are not important. It is about keeping his team in games so it can get the win when the ninth inning finishes out.
â€śThe big thing when I came into the season was I wanted to fill up the zone and throw as many strikes as I can and command as many pitches and it really comes down to keeping the team in the game,â€ť Dupra said. â€śWeâ€™ve been in every game Iâ€™ve pitched in and thatâ€™s kind of the goal, is to give us a chance to win. If we can do that, Iâ€™ll be happy with my performance.â€ť
As the Bees look to get back to .500 and move forward from there, Dupraâ€™s role every fifth day will be a big component to any success the team has. And with the way they are struggling, the Bees are certainly not complaining.
â€śHeâ€™s been outstanding,â€ť Cliburn said. â€śItâ€™s great. He pitches to the weakness of the hitters. Heâ€™s done a great job.â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach