Bakersfield Blaze starter Michael Main entered Tuesday night's game against the Modesto Nuts with a handful of question marks surrounding his performance this season.
First off, what has happened to his command? After walking only 13 batters in 45 innings at Clinton last year, Main entered the game having already issued 16 free passes in 24 2/3 innings. In addition, there were reports that his fastball velocity had waned into the high-80s to low-90s after he briefly hit low-to-mid 90s during the instructional league last fall. There were also rumblings that his curveball, his main out pitch, has lost some of its bite.
While Main (2-4) earned the victory in Bakersfield's 7-6 win over Modesto, he had another inconsistent outing, laboring through most of the start. In five innings of work, the right-hander yielded five runs, four of them earned, five hits and three walks, while fanning four.
"It was good to get the win," said Main. "I tried to keep my team in the game as best I could. I kept battling out there, got through the jam there in the fifth, just trying to give my team an opportunity to win."
Throughout the start, the 2007 first rounder showed glimpses of his frontline starter talent, but he admitted afterwards that he couldn't find a rhythm. Main also acknowledged his fastball command was off, and that he's had trouble finding consistency with his curveball.
"That (curveball) is something we (pitching coach David Chavarria) have been working on," said Main. "Early on in the game, it was good and then I kind of lost it there for a couple of innings. It helped me get out of that jam in the fifth, it kind of came back to me. It's just the matter of getting out there and throwing it and just becoming more and more consistent with it."
During the fifth inning, with the Blaze clinging to a 5-4 lead, the Nuts had an opportunity to break the game wide open. Main hit Radames Nazario with a pitch, surrendered a single to Hector Gomez and walked Brian Rike, loading the bases with no outs.
Thrown into the pressure cooker, Main was able to retire the next three batters to dodge a potentially crippling inning, allowing only one run in the process. He made some of his best pitches in that inning to squash the Nuts' big chance for a rally.
Following Jason Van Kooten's sacrifice fly to score Nazario, Jay Cox stepped to the plate with two runners on and one out. In the second inning, Cox crushed a Main changeup up on the inner half of the plate for a two-run homer. Cox walked and scored the second time they faced in the fourth inning. However, the third time would finally be a charm for Main. Capping a seven-pitch battle, Main fanned Cox by blowing a fastball by him on the lower inside-corner (see video below).
Main then retired Lars Davis on a bunt ground out to end the inning, finishing his night on a high note.
With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the fifth, Davis Stoneburner doubled home Joey Butler for the go-ahead run, rewarding Main with a win following his gritty fifth inning escape.
Although Main wasn't pleased with his outing after the game, pitching coach David Chavarria remains optimistic, noting that his prized right-hander has only been a pro for one-and-half years.
Chavarria says Main's command issues can be attributed to flaws in his mechanics and delivery.
"Right now, he's working on getting more extension out front on his release point," says Chavarria. "Getting down the slope of the mound a little bit and on-line. He's always had the arm and the man upstairs I guess kind of blessed him a little bit with one of those arms. And when you have one of those arms, you can get away with a lot of stuff, delivery wise, et cetera, at the lower levels and even in high school. At some point, it catches up.
"Right now, he's in that mix and he's working extremely hard at it. We have made some slight changes. We've moved him over to the third base side of the rubber. He's felling really comfortable over there. Right now, he's in a good place and I think he's about to turn the corner and get things going. I am looking forward to seeing him pitch."
Main battles for second victory
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