The A's 19th-round selection in the 2009 draft performed well as the Burlington closer during a first-half championship run, was moved out of the role and faltered midway through the summer, but saved his best for last down the stretch.
Daniel Tenholder enters the offseason with plenty of momentum after allowing just two earned runs and 12 hits in 17.1 innings over his last 10 games.
"I definitely improved throughout the season," said Tenholder.
"There were some rough patches, but you'll have those in a long season. I started off really well, but the month of July struggled a little bit.
"[Pitching coach] Jimmy [Escalante] and I started going over the numbers and talking. It was really just re-focusing out there on the mound, coming in and focusing on every single pitch that I was throwing. I broke it down to one pitch at a time."
A junior-eligible selection from Austin Peay, Tenholder has moved gradually through the A's system and advanced one level in each of the past two seasons. After posting a 4-0 mark and 1.86 ERA in the bullpen at short-season Vancouver in 2010, Tenholder was assigned to Burlington out of spring training this year.
He answered the bell for Aaron Nieckula's squad, finishing with a 4-3 record and 3.02 ERA in 40 appearances. He struck out 58 batters over 53.2 innings and held opposing hitters to a .240 average.
"I got a ton of appearances this year," Tenholder said.
"The first half of the year I was just closing, so I was coming in working one inning at a time. Right after the All-Star break, Jimmy wanted to move me into a role of two or three innings every time I come, so I could get more work in. The workload has been good and I feel alright, so that's what matters."
Although he has been in the bullpen since early in his college career, Tenholder has the pitching repertoire of a starter, mixing in a fastball, curve-ball, cutter and change-up. His fastball consistently sat between 89 and 91 on the radar gun.
Many relievers don't have enough time to get a feel for that many pitches in short stints, but Tenholder has used the versatility to his advantage.
"I utilize the pitches that work best for me warming up and factor in who's coming up to bat for the other team and what they're good with and struggle with," Tenholder said.
"I try to attack their weaknesses with what's working really well for me coming out of the bullpen."
Thanks to the tutelage of Oakland's roving minor league pitching instructor Gil Patterson, Tenholder has improved his two breaking pitches, especially the cutter.
"They have gotten a lot better," Tenholder said.
"Last year I was pretty much fastball and change-up the whole time. I got outs, but this year I worked in my cutter and curve-ball a lot more. I've located it a lot better, so that's made me a better pitcher. I worked with Gil on my cutter in instructs my first year and it's continuously gotten better the last year and a half."
For the first time in his minor-league career, Tenholder will not take part in the A's instructional league. Instead, he will be working out on his own in Clarksville, Tennessee, while taking college classes at Austin Peay. He is only two semesters away from earning his Bachelor's Degree.
"I'm going to school this fall, giving lessons and working out at college," Tenholder said. "I've got good weight-lifting and throwing programs to go with."