Michael Schlact dealt one of the best starts of his career on July 1, as he limited the Arkansas Travelers to just one run over eight innings.
After that outing, Schlact had pitched at least seven innings in four of his last five starts, posting a 3.18 ERA over that span.
But that would be where Schlact's string of success ended. In his five appearances after the magnificent start in Arkansas, Schlact surrendered 29 earned runs on a whopping 43 hits in just 24 innings, leading to an inflated ERA of 10.88.
Schlact's struggles were largely due to a period of arm fatigue that he was going through. The Rangers elected to give him some rest by putting him on the disabled list for a couple of weeks.
"[The Rangers] wanted to limit my innings a little bit," said Schlact, "and they wanted to eliminate any arm fatigue that I had. That was what they told me."
The right-hander says he has been through dead arm periods in the past, but thanks to other injuries, he was never forced to pitch through it until this season.
"I go through it every year," he said. "It just so happens that usually I get hit in the leg right at the time that I'm having arm fatigue, so that gives me a start or two off. It's kind of funny how that works. But yeah, I've definitely had it every year pretty much right around the same time."
Over the past three seasons, Schlact has been one of the most dependable pitchers in the Rangers' organization, averaging 27 starts and 152 innings pitched. Because he hasn't missed much time in the past, Schlact was disappointed to be placed on the disabled list.
"I pride myself in being a guy that is high up on the innings list and I pride myself in being a guy that can take my team seven innings," Schlact explained. "That's what I like doing, that's what I want to do. To be just sitting on the sideline watching, it's tough for me."
Schlact returned from the disabled list on August 15, pitching five innings of one-run ball. His next start came on August 21, when he yielded just one run on six hits in seven innings against the San Antonio Missions. The 22-year-old was thrilled with the effort.
"This was the first time in awhile that I felt like I pitched like what kind of pitcher I am," said Schlact of the start. "I didn't try to overpower anybody, I didn't try to be a power pitcher or do too much with any of my pitches. I just tried to stay loose, stay fluid, and work on a quality pitch rather than a high-velocity pitch."
After Schlact allowed his only run of the night in the third inning, Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark chatted with his pitcher about doing just that.
"He was saying that I don't have to do anything special," explained Schlact. "I don't have to try and make pitches do anything. I think he knew I wasn't doing that, but I think he just wanted to reiterate it since this is the first time that consistently I've been doing that – being able to command and really know what kind of pitcher I am."
The 6-foot-8 pitcher's velocity was just fine on Thursday, as he sat in the low-90s with his sinker. Schlact fired off just one four-seam fastball, but he made the pitch count, blowing away Missions second baseman Brian Snyder on a 1-2 pitch in the fifth inning.
"That was the only four-seamer I threw," he said. "For me, I would rather throw one pitch and get an out than throw three or more and get a strikeout. If I can pitch to contact, that's what I'm going to do."
Schlact was clearly on top of his game both mentally and physically during the start, but he wasn't quite perfect. The righty worked out of the stretch while facing San Antonio sluggers Kyle Blanks and Mike Baxter to lead off the bottom of the second. Although the move worked, as he retired the two hitters on four total pitches, Schlact says it was a mistake.
"I actually have no idea what I was doing," said Schlact. "That was a brainfart on me. But it seemed to work. Their eyes were really big and then when I realized what I was doing, my eyes were really big. It was funny."
With Schlact on top of his game for the first time since that July 1 start in Arkansas, it didn't matter whether he was pitching from the windup or the stretch. The Georgia native was able to work his gameplan to perfection by attacking the San Antonio hitters with sinkers in the game's first four innings.
After limiting his opponents to one run while posting an eight-to-four groundout-to-flyout ratio over that time, Schlact began to attack with his slider and changeup in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The plan worked, as he surrendered just one hit in those three frames.
"With this team," Schlact said of the Missions, "you can't ever get lazy or whatever you want to call it. You can't just feel like you're in a groove with these guys because they are a team that makes adjustments. For me, I just wanted to stay ahead of their adjustment and start mixing in some offspeed pitches."
Although Schlact only has a few starts remaining in the 2008 season, he hopes to continue pitching well into the playoffs.
"I want to repeat every start like tonight as far as how I felt, as far as staying under control, tempo, and breathing. Everything that has to do with pitching and mechanics. I feel that if I can repeat that and take that into the next few starts – that's what I want to do.
"I felt like this was the most I have ever clicked as a person for me out there on the mound – ever. I was really pleased with that."
Schlact back at full strength
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