To say that Christ the King (N.Y.) School pitcher Joe Mortillaro came from nowhere might be a bit of an overstatement, but only a bit. The senior never spent a full season with the Royals' varsity team due to a raft of injury issues, disciplinary issues and academic struggles.
Now that he's finally getting a full shot at showing his talents, Mortillaro is taking advantage of it … and professional scouts are taking notice.
"It was a very pleasant surprise," one American League scout told the New York Daily News after watching Mortillaro in a preseason scrimmage. "He definitely has a professional arm. The funny thing is that I don't think anyone knows about him yet."
The young pitcher has definitely improved on what he was showing in the preseason as well. Perhaps most notably, Mortillaro tossed a no-hitter against Holy Cross (N.Y.) High in late April, outdueling Holy Cross ace Steve Engelmann's one-hitter. The win showed both the effectiveness of Mortillaro's full repertoire -- he finished with 12 strikeouts -- and his competitiveness.
That competitiveness has at times conspired to hold the budding ace back. While he is one of only two or three pitchers in the New York City region who throw 90 or more mph, he still shows a temper that can compare with the likes of the MLB's great hotheads. The Daily News' Mitch Abramson reported that he was ejected from a team practice earlier this spring after a mean-spirited argument with Christ the King coach Billy Oettinger. The coach, who traditionally drives Mortillaro home after practice, instead made him walk all the way to the Middle Village house he shares with his mother.
Still, the pitcher seems to be moving beyond those bumps in the road, perhaps to a brighter, professional future which could come after a career at Manhattan College … or before, depending on how scouts and general managers assess his ever-growing potential.
"He's definitely under the radar," Oettinger told the Daily News. "He's like one of these 2-year-old racehorses; he's had a maiden race here or there, but let's see what he does in the stakes races."