Collin Balester (0-2, 10.24) had a bad night against Lehigh Valley Wednesday, there's no denying that. Early in the game, he was throwing pretty well, but his velocity, which is usually in the low-90s, was registering in the upper-80s Wednesday night. That's especially odd when you factor in that Kyle Kendrick, who generally throws right around 90, was routinely touching 94 and the question was whether the gun was actually registering higher than what the pitch actually was. There is always some cause for concern when a pitcher's velocity drops, but let's not jump to any conclusions.
Balester came out throwing strikes and had a very efficient six pitch inning in the first, picking up a strikeout - on three pitches - and two routine groundball outs in the inning. The struggles started early in the second inning though, when Andy Tracy led off with a double and Balester's control seemed shaky, but he was able to get the next three hitters, albeit pitching from behind in the count to three of the four hitters that he faced in the inning. Overally, Balester threw a first pitch strike to 17 of the 29 hitters that he faced in the game.
In both the third and fourth innings, Balester's pitches were flat and pitches that earlier were painting the corners, were now riding in the middle of the plate and were rarely down in the zone. IronPigs hitters were able to tee off on his pitches and a team not known for offense, pounded out seven hits - four of them for extra bases - in just two innings.
The odd thing about Balester is that after struggling through the third and fourth, he looked like he was completely done and had no gas left in the tank. Then, he came out for the fifth and the Balester that threw in the first inning was back; he was throwing strikes and recorded two outs on strikeouts and the other on a routing flyball to left. He also started the sixth well, before officially running out of gas and needing help to get out of a two-out jam in the seventh.
On the night, Balester threw 93 pitches, 59 of them for strikes.
Balester is still facing some of the old issues that he did last season when he was in Washington. Especially when you consider the velocity he was getting - or wasn't getting - on his fastball, his change-up is too hard (generally in the mid-80s) and doesn't give hitters enough of a different look between the two pitches. On this night, his fastball was generally flat and his curve was inconsistent and completely deserted him in the third and fourth innings. When his curve was on, he was able to pick up strikeouts with the pitch and finished with five strikeouts, which isn't a bad number for Balester.
It will be interesting to see where Balester's velocity is for games down the road and to see whether that becomes an issue to be concerned about for the 22 year old.
Balester's line vs. Lehigh Valley (April 15, 2009)
Balester's season stats