Josh Outman came into 2008 feeling pretty good about being assigned to Double-A Reading. He had a stint at that level last season, but things didn't always go how he had hoped they would in his first shot at the Eastern League, but he gained a lot from that experience and is putting it to good use this season. In his first two starts, Outman has thrown two good games and has bent, but not broken in those outings. Opposing hitters are batting .292 against him in the early going and he's also walked six in 11 innings of work, but has allowed just two earned runs. Throwing strikes has been an issue that Outman has dealt with since being drafted by the Phillies. "I know that I can [throw strikes]; I proved it playing in the fall league and playing for Team USA, I proved that I can throw strikes consistently, it's just a matter of proving that now," believes Outman. He walked just three hitters in 13.2 innings between the Arizona Fall League and his work with Team USA, half as many as he's walked this season and he hasn't yet reached the same amount of innings. So, why the difference? "It's just a feel for things," said Outman. "I came into spring training throwing strikes, but I got out of touch with it and now, it's just a matter of getting back into that rhythm and once I do that, I'll be fine."
The relatively quiet left-hander has taken well to the teaching of Reading pitching coach Tom Filer and is constantly seeking his opinion and input. For his part, Filer believes that Outman will be just fine when he really does settle in. "Some guys just take a little longer to get over that final hurdle, but once Josh gets consistency and has the location that he needs, it's all going to fall into place," believes Filer.
When he first came to the Phillies, there was a lot of work to do for Outman and his new bosses. To say that they tinkered with his mechanics would be like saying that a wrecking ball tinkered with Veterans Stadium. The biomechanics and kinesiology approach Outman's Dad taught him have pretty much been leveled, leaving a much more conventional delivery in place. While Outman admits that the changes aren't as easy on his shoulder, he still relies heavily on some other things that Dad taught him. "He's always working on something. You can always get better and as far as my mentality on the mound, he taught me to never give in," explained Outman. "He also taught me a lot about the mental approach to the game and how to be tough on the mound. He also taught me a lot about studying a hitter and watching how he sets up in the batter's box and what his approach is to hitting."
Outman is really coming along on what he needs to improve on and he isn't being outworked by anybody. While his walks per nine innings is at about the same level that it was last season at Reading, Outman is striking out more hitters, whiffing 10.6 hitters per nine innings this season, while striking out 7.3 per nine last season with Reading. He's a good, hard thrower who mixes in some good off-speed pitches with his fastball to get hitters out. Sorting through the numbers on Outman, you have to wonder if he might find himself as a reliever at some point. He's got strong numbers against left-handers and his walk numbers are also down nicely facing lefties instead of right-handed hitters. For their part though, the Phillies are going to be patient with Outman to see just how things play out and how quickly he can become the strike machine that he was in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA. If he can put it together soon enough, the only time he'll see the bullpen is when he's warming up for his starts.
Outman (0-1, 1.64) is slated to start Tuesday night (April 15) when Reading hosts the Harrisburgh Senators in the second game of their series. It will be Outman's first home start of the season. The Senators will have right-hander Shairon Matis (1-0, 4.82) opposing Outman.