Lakewood Spotlight: Zac Cline

While Draft Day may have been a slight disappointment for pitcher Zac Cline, his young professional career certainly hasn't. Cline moved quickly from draft to Batavia to Lakewood as the Phillies saw Cline's ability to handle the next step. It hasn't all been easy and Cline admits to how tough it can be, but all looks well for the Phillies' 15th round pick.

Growing up as a fan of the Oakland A's, Zac Cline had seen current A's pitchers Mark Mulder and Barr Zito have early success and thought about what that might be like. While at West Virginia, Cline experienced some of that success, winning 20 of the 28 games he started in two seasons and throwing ten complete games in each season. Over his three seasons at West Virginia, Cline put together a school record 22 complete games. In his last two seasons at West Virginia, Cline went 20-6, 3.14 and was scouted by a few teams.

Coming into the 2004 Draft, Cline was under the impression that he would go in the top ten rounds, but that didn't happen. "I was kind of disappointed, but the draft is a crazy process and you can't know for sure what's going to happen," remembers Cline. While Cline had to wait until the 15th round to finally hear his name, it has all turned out well. After a short time at Batavia, the Phillies had seen enough – 2-0, 2.53 in eight games - and moved their young pitcher along to Lakewood. "It was a surprise," recalls Cline. "Warren Brusstar (pitching coach) and Luis Melendez (manager) called me over and told me I was moving up. It was kind of a shock."

Leaving Batavia also meant leaving behind Brusstar, who Cline says was a great help. "He's great to work with. I left there with a lot of respect for him," said Cline. The respect is mutual. "Zac is a smart kid and he knows how to pitch. He works hard and he'll do well," said Brusstar.

If things at Batavia went perfectly, Lakewood has been a little less than perfect. "It's an adjustment. You definitely have to keep the ball down more at this level," explained Cline. After all, he should know. In his first game at Lakewood, Cline was touched for two homeruns and learned his lesson. "These guys are more experienced. If you make a mistake, you're more likely to pay for it here," said Cline.

The Phillies liked Cline's ability to throw strikes and felt all along that he was a guy who knew how to pitch. The Phillies haven't been too surprised by his rapid move, because they didn't figure on needing to spend too much time with him at Batavia because he was one of those pitchers who simply knew how to get things done and had enough talent to move quickly.

"My fastball and change-up are my best pitches," said Cline. Some scouts have commented that his change-up will be the pitch that will make people remember Zac Cline. "He always had good command of his fastball and then uses that change-up to beat people," remembered WV pitching coach Greg Van Zant.

While the draft may have been a bit of an unpleasant surprise for Cline, his professional career has started strong. The struggles at Lakewood are likely temporary and to his credit, Cline has realized his mistakes. In ten innings,Cline has walked three and struck out eight in the New York – Penn League. As Cline has already learned, the pros are less forgiving, but he'll be able to rely on his control to succeed. That success should continue to come at a pretty good pace for Lakewood's Zac Cline.

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