With a doubleheader scheduled in Portland, Ayala got the chance to move up and threw a seven-inning complete game shutout, allowing two hits and walking four while striking out three – facing four batters with men in scoring position on the day to pick up his first win in the Pacific Coast League.
He ended the year with a 5.23 ERA after struggling in his final three starts with the Missions.
You began the year in relief – how different was that role and how did it come about?
Manny Ayala: It was different. It was a matter of whether I wanted to stay in Arizona I could have still been a starter down there waiting for something to happen or face hitters. As long as I am facing hitters at this level – it was great for my development as opposed to being in Arizona where you don't know anyone from the next guy. That gave me a chance to have a scouting report on a guy and work accordingly.
You obviously had some work to do to get back and have the opportunity to pitch. What happened this spring that led to you staying behind?
Manny Ayala: Basically, I tried to take it easy. I built it up in the Instructional League and then shut it down again. Maybe that was the case where I revved it up in Spring Training not knowing how much effort I could put forth. All of a sudden it caught up with me.
I started to throw a curveball and the new pitch added new soreness and I didn't know if it was permanent – ‘here we go again.' It ended up just being for two weeks and by the end of spring I was fine but then it was a matter of building up arm strength again. That was the elbow.
How does working out of the pen improve your value?
Manny Ayala: You want to be able to pitch out of the pen and start. If I can be one of those guys who can start or pitch in the middle to hold a lead. Or if a pitcher is getting blown out, let's throw him out there for three or four. Whatever helps me get to the big leagues, develop – let that build on the potential.
Have you been throwing the curveball?
Manny Ayala: As a starter I am throwing a few first-pitch ‘get-me-over' curveballs in there. It is definitely not a go-to pitch right now but gives something for the hitters to think about.
Because of the elbow, have you been tentative with throwing the curveball?
Manny Ayala: Everything is fine now. It is just getting the opportunity and staying mentally prepared.
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