Josh Collmenter Stays Strong in Playoffs

Josh Collmenter added five strong innings of pitching in Game One of the Eastern Division Championship Series to an already impressive resume. Last year's 15th-round draft choice out of CMU has established himself as an effective workhorse.

Josh Collmenter has enjoyed terrific success since signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and not just for a 15th-round pick.  He led the Northwest League with a 2.71 ERA last season, and has followed that up with a 12-8 record and 3.41 ERA this year with the South Bend Silver Hawks.   

We really shouldn't be surprised by this success, though.  Collmenter posted a 1.91 ERA in his final season at CMU prior to his stellar performance at Yakima and went 24-10 in his collegiate career. 

"It's pretty much the same thing: throwing a lot of fastballs early," Collmenter responded when we asked him whether he approached professional hitters differently than amateurs.  "The changeup's been my pitch last year and this year.  I've struggled with an inconsistent curveball.  When the changeup isn't there, I have to rely more on my fastball.  Once I was able to command that in and out, I was able to get them to hit my pitch.  I'm really pitching in a lot and getting jam jobs and maybe some broken bats.  Guys sweat a little bit when you pitch in.  So I took the same philosophy that I applied in college and applied it last year, and then again this year."

Josh used different mechanics at CMU

Although Collmenter has now established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, as recently as May, that did not appear to be the case.  He allowed nine runs on 12 hits in his first start of the season and held a 6.43 ERA six starts into the year.  Since then, he put up a 2.68 ERA in the regular season and a strong five-inning, two-run performance against Dayton in the second round of the postseason.

"I was battling some mechanical things, trying to get some things ironed out," Collmenter said of his early season struggles.  "I was really fighting with some of the things I was doing on the mound and taking them into bullpen sessions.  I finally got back to my old form of being able to command my fastball again, something I'd really struggled with at the beginning.  Once I got back to throwing strike one, strike two, I could use my changeup and curveball again to keep hitters off balance."

All prospects go through rough stretches, but Collmenter's was a concern due to the heavy workload he shouldered in 2007.  After tossing a fairly typical 95 innings as a sophomore in 2006, Collmenter grinded out 116.1 innings as a junior with CMU before adding 66.1 at Yakima and throwing in a few more in last year's Instructional League for good measure.  He basically doubled his workload from the previous season, which generally means that injury or ineffectiveness will ensue for a 22-year old pitcher.

Not so for Collmenter, who finished seventh in the Midwest League with 145.1 innings pitched.  It might have even been more, but Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley and pitching coach Erik Sabel limited all of their starters to five innings in August to save their arms for the playoffs and give their bullpen more work.

How does he do it?  Collmenter's size gives scouts the impression that he can eat more innings than smaller pitchers can, but Collmenter himself cited the conditioning that he has undergone since becoming an Arizona Diamondback is paramount.

"The full-body maintenance that strength trainers instill is phenomenal," he said.  "The stuff they know about the human body and how to get your arm back in five days.  I've really bought into that, stuck with that system, and do it religiously.  I make sure I get my arm work in every time I do a side, get my running in, eat healthy, and get enough sleep so I have enough energy to go every five days."

Collmenter looks as though he has slimmed down considerably since his days at CMU, though he is still listed at an imposing 6-foot-3, 233 pounds.  Perhaps his conditioning program has turned some baby fat into muscle.  Sabel thinks that Collmenter's ability to be efficient with his pitches is the biggest reason that he can go deep into games, since all of his starters are on a pitch count.

"[By] throwing the ball over the plate early and trying to get contact on good pitches down in the strike zone, you can pitch into the sixth, seventh, or eighth innings," the pitching coach concluded.

Whatever the cause, Collmenter has most definitely established himself both as a workhorse and a pitcher the Silver Hawks want on the mound in big games.  He may get to pitch in an even bigger game than he did Sunday if the team advances to play the Burlington Bees in the final round of the playoffs, and he looks to have a terrific future with the Arizona Diamondbacks either way. 

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