Ballard Keeps Strikeouts High and Walks Low

Baysox starter Mike Ballard has been dominating Double-A since being sent down June 1st.

For 27 year-old starter, Mike Ballard, the 2011 seasons seems just like his 2009 season with the Texas Rangers organization: he began the season in Triple-A, and then was pushed back to Double-A after the parent club sent players down one level from the big leagues

On June 1st the Orioles sent starters Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen to Triple-A Norfolk and shipped Ballard to Double-A Bowie.

Some minor leaguers would have a hard time rebounding from a demotion knowing they were one step away from achieving their childhood dream. However Mike Ballard had been through this situation before.

“I think it was just one of those situations. I was the odd man out,” Ballard said. “But they wanted me to keep starting, which is a good sign that they didn't want me to get lost in the bullpen. The only way to do that is at Bowie. I just took it in stride.”

If you take a look at Ballard stats since his June 1st demotion you would see Ballard is using his time in Bowie to show to the Orioles front office he is a very good pitcher. In six games with the Baysox, he is 4-0 with 3.46 ERA. Incredibly Ballard has only walked two batters while striking out 46 in 39 innings.

It would be hard to find another pitcher with a similar strike out ratio, but if you ask the 6 foot 2 left hander about his strikeout total you'll see he is just as surprised.

“I feel like the strikeout thing is a little bit anomaly. Generally, I'm not going to strikeout 10 or 15 guys a game. I feel the strikeouts are just something that is happening. I'm not trying to strikeout guys, and if I had my way, I would have the hitters put the first pitch in play every time and get through the inning with three pitches.”

Ballard also attributed his success to trusting his pitches. Although he won't blow away hitters with his upper 80's fastball, he will keep them off balance with a curveball (69-72 mph), cutter/slider combo (77-83 mph) and a change-up (78-80 mph).

Every time Ballard takes the mound he expects to succeed. “I'm not afraid to get my pants kicked in. I have definitely have had that happen before, but I'm not going to be the guy who's afraid to challenge guys.”

“I have eight guys on defense behind me. When they hit it there is a pretty good chance it will be caught by someone. I have that mindset each time I go out and change speeds to keep them off balance,” Ballard said.

With hopes of a return to Norfolk, and hopefully Baltimore, Ballard knows he'll need to continue to get lefties out and keep the ball down in the zone.

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