Miami Marlins starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, who is known for succeeding in the majors without a 90 mph fastball, worked 30 changeups into his pitching performance on April 25 against the New York Mets.
Buehrle's stat line was typical of the MLB-veteran that night: seven innings, two earned runs, five hits, one base on balls and four strikeouts.
Lobstein's line was not nearly as impressive: four innings, six earned runs, 10 hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
Lobstein didn't watch Buehrle's start live that April night. Instead he studied video footage of the game with Biscuits pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein before his next turn against the Chattanooga Lookouts.
After they studied the game, Lichtenstein asked Lobstein how many changeups he thought Buehrle threw that night.
"Between 20 and 30," Lobstein replied.
Lichtenstein had a follow-up question.
"Then I asked him, ‘how is Buehrle throwing 30 changeups and you're throwing five?' The one thing I stress is that he needs to be a Mark Buehrle-type pitcher," Lichtenstein said.
Lobstein was then informed by his pitching coach of a new target: he would incorporate a minimum of 20 changeups in every start from that point forward.
"I guess you can say we formulated a game plan from there," Lobstein said.
In his first three starts of the season, the left-hander surrendered 17 earned runs in just 10 total innings pitched. Since that point in early May when he decided to take Lichtenstein's advice — and more importantly, trust his own stuff — Lobstein has pitched to a 2.07 ERA in 40 innings.
The Biscuits hurler was named the Southern League's Pitcher of the Week for the games running from May 14-20. In two starts during that week, Lobstein was 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA, and allowed one run over 14 innings pitched. Lobstein won the same award last year in the Florida State League on three occasions.
After getting hit hard and often early this season, Lobstein is so confident in his changeup that he has thrown it on 3-0 counts.
"It's always been the same pitch, I'm just throwing it more," the 2008 second round draft pick said. "I've already seen a big difference. I've been able to throw it at any count. It's actually given me a confidence boost."
The changeup is not the only pitch Lobstein has worked on developing during his first full season in Double-A. He has added a curveball — a pitch that breaks with more depth — to a repertoire that includes a 4-seam and a 2-seam fastball and a cutter that often works as a hard slider.
"It's still in the process to get to where I'm comfortable with it," said Lobstein of his curveball. "It can definitely be an out-pitch down the road."
Going forward, it is imperative that Lobstein continues to trust his secondary pitches because he relies on groundballs instead of strikeouts when a big out is needed and he is behind in the count.
With the all-star break ending Wednesday, Lobstein has some personal goals set to ensure his success remains consistent.
"Ultimately getting more confident with the changeup and curveball," he said. "A big thing for me is the walk total and trying to get that down. I'm not worried about getting the strikeouts up."
Will Sammon is the Montgomery Biscuits beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @WillSammon.
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