Balester One Step Closer

The last couple weeks were quite eventful ones for Washington's most promising young pitching prospect.  After a trip to San Francisco to take part in the All-Star festivities and a promotion from Harrisburg to Columbus, Collin Balester is now suiting up for the Clippers and ready to make an impact at the Triple-A level.

Since the moment Montreal selected Balester in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, there has been little doubt from the Washington organization that he will eventually develop into a reliable starter in the majors. On Thursday, Balester made it one step closer to the big show by receiving a call up to Columbus. The 6' 5" right-hander told Saturday that he was excited to make the move up the minor league ladder, but he did not pay a whole lot of attention to where he would land next while he was in Harrisburg.

"I just pitched and whatever happened happened," Balester said. "I wasn't really too into what was happening with me. Wherever they said to go, I went."

In 2006, Balester pitched mostly with Single-A Potomac, but he did see some playing time toward the end of the season with Harrisburg. The development process accelerated this year as Balester only played the first half of the season at the Double-A level before being called up. Thus far, Balester is responding well to the new scenery and the changes that come along with this transition period.

"I'm just going out and doing the same thing I did in Harrisburg," Balester said. "I'm trying to get used to these guys and this clubhouse. After that, just pitch the way I've been pitching. Nothing different up here, I've just got to locate my pitches the same way I did down there."

Balester's 2-7 record and 3.74 ERA with Harrisburg are not exactly eye-opening, but it is no secret that the 21-year-old has an overwhelming amount of potential. As evidence to this, Balester was selected to play in the MLB Futures Game last weekend. The game, which features the top prospects from the U.S. against the best young players of the World, was a homecoming for the California native. Although he only pitched one-third of an inning—registering a strikeout and giving up a hit—Balester said he enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to play at AT&T Park.

"It was awesome," Balester said. "My family and a couple friends came out. That was a lot of fun just being with them and being able to play in that stadium. It was a lot of fun. I definitely had a blast."

In addition to the Futures game selection and the promotion, Balester was also selected to represent Harrisburg in the Eastern League All-Star game, but he was unable to participate. Because of all of the accolades he has received and the merry-go-round Washington has had for their rotation this season, there are more and more eyes locked on the development of this young pitcher. However, Balester is very mature for such a young player and he said that he is not affected by any of the hype surrounding his potential.

"I don't really believe in pressure," Balester said. "Just go out, do your work, and get stuff done. Do the same things you've been doing your whole life and good things will happen for you."

It's hard to believe those words are coming from a pitcher who is just a few years removed from high school. His maturity level has also helped him to be persistent with the development of his pitching repertoire. Earlier in the year, Balester said he was having a little trouble locating his curveball, but he is now starting to find some consistency with that pitch, as well as his other pitches.

"I've been able locate my curveball a lot better and my changeup too," Balester said. "They've gotten better. My fastball has been the same, so it has been a lot better."

As of right now, Balester plans to focus exclusively on those three pitches, but he said that he is not leaving out the possibility of developing a two-seam fastball in the future. In addition to his pitches, Balester said he has also been concentrating on his tempo on the mound. When asked who he would compare his pitching style to, Balester quickly had one major league ace come to mind.

"I like to work fast like Roy Halladay," Balester said. "As far as stuff, I don't really know who I compare to, but just the tempo of my game is probably like Roy Halladay."

Without question, Washington would love to see Balester turn into a No.1 starter like Halladay. For right now, though, Balester has to show that he can pitch effectively against Triple-A hitters. If he does, it may not be long before he is donning a Nationals uniform for the first time. But, projections and promotions are irrelevant to Balester as he goes into the second half of the season and his first Triple-A start on Monday. He is focusing wholly on improving his game and taking whatever comes in stride.

"If they decide to call me up, then I'm going to be coming," Balester said. "I'll be ready."

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