Ready To Pitch Again

Matt Maloney and his wife, Kalee, lived in Austin, Texas, for a short while. Being in that locale made for some uncomfortable moments.

"I worked out at UT (University of Texas), so I had to walk every day past that 2005 national championship trophy," said Maloney, a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization. "It killed me every time to do it, too."

Maloney, 27, isn't alone in his thoughts of how that 2005 season ended. The Rebels were the No. 5 national seed but hosted a team on a mission in the Super Regional. The Longhorns won games two and three in Oxford and rolled through Omaha the following two weeks.

"Me and Drew Stubbs (Longhorn All-American and current Reds center fielder) still talk about that Super Regional against Texas all the time," said the left-handed pitcher.

The Rebels won game one, and Maloney started game two. His performance was easily good enough to win it. But his counterpart for Texas, Adrian Alaniz, who had pitched a no-hitter against Oklahoma that season, was equally as good.

Maloney pitched seven innings and allowed only two runs with seven strikeouts. Alaniz combined with stellar closer J. Brent Cox, who had lost game one to Ole Miss, to allow only one run in a 3-1 UT win. Texas won game three 6-4 to move on.

Maloney and the Rebels were left to ponder what might have been had they been able to advance to the College World Series.

"That was a tough....that was a tough series," said Maloney, still with disappointment evident in his voice. "A lot of us went and started our pro careers right after that. That was the start of a new page in our lives, and for a lot of us it's worked out well."

Certainly it has for the Huron, Ohio, native who pitched at Manatee Community College in Bradenton, Fla., before pitching for Ole Miss in 2004 and 2005. He was drafted by the Phillies in the third round in June, 2005, and signed that month.

He was traded to the Reds in July, 2007, and his career began a steady climb to the major league level. He was added to the Reds' 40-man roster at the end of the 2008 season.

"I pitched with the Reds parts of '09 and ‘10, and I made the team out of (spring training) camp this year," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder. "I got sent down at one point for about three weeks, and then I got called back up. I've been consistently with the team for most of this year."

That was the case until late May when something went wrong. It was in a game, but he wasn't on the mound. He was batting. And it was, ironically, against the Phillies, his former employer.

"I was warming up before a game, and my side was really sore," Maloney said. "I wasn't thinking of it other than I wasn't getting loose. We were in Philadelphia, and I had to hit. I swung in my at-bat, and after I hit it I felt like my rib and my side pulled apart. It was really painful. I actually went out and pitched another inning after that."

But his worst fears came true. He was headed for the disabled list, just when things were moving ahead for him like never before.

"I went and got the x-ray and MRI and it was a broken rib," Maloney said. "It was just a combination of pitching and swinging. But I don't really know how it happened, to be honest. I went on the DL the next day, and then I was transferred to the 60-day DL. I'm supposed to come off July 24, but I don't really know what will happen at this point."

Barry Gunther, Matt Maloney celebrate a victory at Ole Miss
Bruce Newman
What is supposed to happen right now is he is scheduled to pitch some this week for the Reds' AAA team, the Louisville Bats, in their series at the Gwinnett Braves. He had rehabbed and pitched a couple of times in the rookie league in Arizona, just to make sure he was ready to pitch against higher-level competition.

"But I really haven't pitched competitively in two months," Maloney said. "I need to go out and show them I'm still competing and ready to go, prove that I can help the big-league team again. I feel really confident I'll be back with (the Reds) soon."

But he cannot be 100 percent sure. It's a tough business, the business of major league sports. Finally making it is one thing. Staying there can be another. Business is business, and change is the main constant.

"There's a lot of stuff going on within the organization as far as trades and things," Maloney said. "It's kind of just a wait and see process. They've got to see what they're going to do. July 16 was my first day to pitch in the Arizona League. You get 30 days of being on an assignment before you have to be activated. So I could technically come back (to the Reds) Aug. 16 if they wanted to drag it out that long. But I don't think they will. I assume I'll be back with the Reds, but you never know."

Maloney admitted it's been a tough two months.

"It's definitely frustrating. I feel like this is the year for me as far as proving myself," he said. "I made the team out of camp, and I've thrown the ball well. It's frustrating not to be able to help the team. Our team's been struggling a little bit. We're right at .500 and we're kind of right in the middle of the race in the NL Central. It's been tough to sit and watch.

"It's a crazy game that we play. It's an uncertain life. You don't really know what's going to happen. You can go out and play well and still never get an opportunity. It's a grind. You just have to keep at it and be positive that good things will happen."

Maloney said he is a better pitcher than when he was at Ole Miss, but in a lot of ways he's still the same pitcher he was then.

"It's pretty much been consistency," he said of what has gotten him this far in the pros. "My stuff hasn't really changed much since I was at Ole Miss. I actually throw a little bit slower now than I did then. I have a better idea of how to pitch. I don't just go out there and try to throw fastballs by people. I know how to get movement on the ball, how to make it sink and cut. I use my changeup quite a bit. It's just kind of learning how to pitch with what you have and staying consistent and throwing. You can't be successful anywhere unless you throw strikes."

Maloney is excited Zack Cozart is now with the Reds. He and his former Ole Miss teammate had played together in the minors. He's impressed with the ex-Rebel shortstop and says so.

"It's awesome playing with Zack. I played with him most of last year in Louisville. I'll say it right now. I don't think he'll come back down to the minors ever. He's very talented and very good at what he does. I've been lucky enough to play with him in college at Ole Miss and since then. He's a great player."

Maloney and Kalee, who dated in high school and through his college years, were married on Nov. 14, 2009, and now live in Louisville. He works out in the offseason with the Louisville Cardinals, coached by former Ole Miss assistant Dan McDonnell.

Maloney is happy for all the former Rebel players who have reached the majors this season. Seven of them in all have been there at one time or another in 2011 – Maloney, Cozart, Seth Smith, Matt Tolbert, Chris Coghlan, Lance Lynn, and Alex Presley, who Maloney happened to mention specifically.

"Guys like Alex Presley," Maloney said. "I played against him in Pittsburgh and also in Indianapolis. Just seeing the strides he's made throughout pro ball. It's good to see all those players from Ole Miss up there. It's good for the program and it says a lot about the teams we had."

Teams that Ole Miss fans and its players remember vividly and sometimes painfully.

"I remember them all," Maloney said. "The SEC Tournaments, the Regionals, the Super Regionals. You don't forget that stuff. It was an awesome time for all of us."

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