Evan MacLane Rebounds From Poor 2007 Season

Evan MacLane was a candidate for a September callup in 2006 and a possibility for the 2007 Diamondbacks rotation. Neither scenario worked out for the finesse pitcher, who then endured a disastrous 2007 campaign. MacLane has put that behind him, gone 4-0 with a 3.33 ERA since the end of June, and once again appears poised for a September debut.

Evan MacLane was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks by the New York Mets in the Shawn Green deal, but his first full year in the Diamondbacks system was a disaster. Batters hit .373 off of him with 21 homeruns in only 115 innings, good for a 7.70 earned-run average and the worst year of his career. To make matters worse, the Diamondbacks removed him from the 40-man roster after the season. His 2008 season, however, has seen a marked improvement over last year's effort.

"This is the year that I've done well and improved throughout the season," MacLane told FutureBacks.  "The thing is, I'm just glad that the Diamondbacks gave me another opportunity. I didn't really get to show who I was or what kind of person I was [in 2007], but they gave me an opportunity.  They put me on the forty man roster last year, and I didn't take the opportunity."

"They took me off the roster, and then after that, I was kind of in my own head a little bit," he confesses. "I wasn't confident, and I wasn't sure of a lot of things, but I went to winter ball last year to prove myself. I went to Venezuela, pitched pretty well, and they gave me another opportunity. Now I'm one of those guys who's got to fight for a spot. I came to spring training and said, 'I'm going to prove that I can pitch.'"

So far, he has done just that. But what happened in the 2007 season that so completely derailed him?

"I came into the [2007] season expecting too much, and as soon as I got sent down from big-league camp and went into minor-league camp, I just kind of lost confidence," admits MacLane.  "I shouldn't have, but I felt I had to change some things in my mechanics, change what I was doing, and then the season started off bad and I just couldn't get it back. I couldn't find what I needed to do. Unfortunately, it just kept getting worse and worse and I guess I changed too much. It was a really bad season. I wish I could erase it. As soon as it was over I took that month off and tried not to think about baseball and then got the opportunity to go to Venezuela."

Winter ball has long been the destination for prospects in need of extra work. MacLane explains that the coaches in Venezuelan winter ball are for the most part Venezuelan, and they try to keep things simple. If you're pitching well "they don't say anything to you and if you aren't they'll say something small, but there's really no time to change you, so they don't do too much." MacLane notes that he "definitely went over there to get away from everything and start fresh. Get a different perspective."

"Winter ball in Venezuela is very competitive," he continues. "It's really competitive. That's their big leagues." He says that it isn't all that different from American baseball, though they are much bigger on dancing mascots in Venezuela, and there is less going on between innings.

MacLane's pitching repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, two-seam sinker, changeup, curveball and cutter. Asked if there was anything wrong with his "stuff" that led to his dizzying 2007, he answers: "It wasn't my stuff. It was mostly my attitude. I took things for granted; I expected too much. It got taken away from me. I just messed up, pretty much. Shot myself in the foot and got to a point where I gotta pitch good in winter ball and I gotta pitch good in spring training. Fortunately, the organization said 'we know that last year is maybe a fluke year for you and we want to see where your confidence level and your head's at. We want you to show us what you can do.' I just kind of took it from there. To this day, I just appreciate what they've done; just try to pitch as well as I can for them."

For MacLane, much of baseball can be attributed to work-ethic and confidence. He has tried to improve both areas this season in acknowledgment of his attitude problems last year.

"I've been more consistent with my work-ethic," says the southpaw.  "It helps with my confidence, too. The more consistent I work, the more confident I am the easier the work will be. I'm real fresh, and I'm ready to go to attack the hitters. The harder I work the better my mechanics get. The more consistent they get. If you have good mechanics, your changeup's going to be good no matter who you are."

"That wasn't really me pitching [in 2007]. I don't know, I can't really explain it. Baseball a game of mental adjustments. For the most part, it should be like that for everybody. Some guys have more talent than others. If my mind's right and I'm focused, then that's what's happening to me. Even though my numbers aren't the best in the league, I think I've proven that I can pitch."

MacLane grew up in a smaller city: Chico, California.  But he denies that being away from home has had any effect on his pitching.

"I don't really mind it. Growing up in a small town, I hadn't really gone anywhere outside of the area. I was ready for the challenge, ready to go out and see the country. Going to spring training in Florida, being in that part of the country for the first time was different. It was real humid during spring training, and I thought I was going to die. Now I'm used to it and I like it. Now I'm used to moving at the drop of a hat. I talk to my mom constantly. Have some family over there; talk to them as much as I can. I visit every once in a while. For now, I'm just trying to play baseball."

His family approves of his career choice: "They're always looking at my stats, if I do this and I do this," explains MacLane.  "They definitely love it. They come out and travel. My aunt and uncles are retired, so they'd go out to watch me play on the east coast. They'd enjoy themselves 'cause they get to watch me play."

MacLane has not heard anything about being called up this season, but says that he'd "like to hear it." He adds: "That's not a decision I can even think about right now." I ask him if he is a quirky lefthander, and he says, "not quirky, no. If you think we're all weird," he laughs. "No, I think I'm normal."

Send questions or comments for Gregory Pratt to future_backs@yahoo.com

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