Maher Is On The Right Track

CHARLESTON, SC - Well into his first full season with the Charleston Riverdogs, Joey Maher is doing what he does best: commanding the fastball. It’s been a long couple of years for this New Hampshire born pitcher, but he’s not backing down. Slowly but surely, Maher is getting on the right track one pitch at a time.

[Photo by Jerry Coli, courtesy of the Charleston RiverDogs]

He had seen some real progress in his first two professional seasons, both in the Gulf Coast League. He had continued working on his secondary pitches and the results were tangible, dropping his ERA nearly a run and half between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Well on his way towards potentially breaking out last season, his year never got on track as he got sidelined with injuries.

Some elbow pain initially popped up in Spring Training last year and it turned out he had both a bone spur and a stress reaction in his right elbow, and was immediately shut down for essentially the the remainder of the season, only making a handful of late-season appearances in the Gulf Coast League.

Finally healthy towards the end of the 2014 campaign, his first offseason spent in Tampa was one he took very seriously. He wanted to make sure he was healthy and really ready for what would be his first full season in 2015.

“I was working out at the Yankees complex, and I think that it was good for me," Maher said. "Obviously there is a lot more I can get done down in Florida compared to where I’m from [New Hampshire] and having all the trainers and equipment at my disposal was a big help.

"The biggest difference for me was I focused more on nutrition. Every day I was getting there in the early morning, and just having a routine throughout the day, rather than when I’m at home on my own where I didn’t feel as motivated.”

Maher’s motivation didn’t go unnoticed by staff and coaches right from the get-go this year too. They were seeing the 6-foot-5 hurler throwing strikes and getting ahead of the hitters.

“Joey came in and he started for the first month and a half and he was throwing strikes and getting ahead," Charleston pitching coach Tim Norton said. "The offspeed development is coming along really well, but the reason he’s been successful is that fastball. He’s a really pitch-efficient guy and that’s good for a lot of things, like keeping the bullpen healthy.

"Now, he’s been pushed back in the bullpen so he’s taking on a different role but he’s still doing the same thing. He’s doing well."

Maher, who has pitched to a 2.73 ERA this season for the RiverDogs, has flip-flopped back and forth between starting and relieving, mostly in an effort to help minimize his innings pitched, especially after tossing a career-low three innings last year and closing in on matching his career total of 82 innings [he has 69.1 innings this season] already.

Managing his innings while trying to allow him time to develop his pitches has been a balancing act of sorts. Just as his coaches are seeing, however, Maher is seeing those improvements in himself as well but he does believe he can be doing a lot better.

“I’ve seen more improvement velocity-wise, pitching over 90 mph most times, so I’m going to see if I can keep that up,“ he said.

Once sitting mostly in the upper-80s, Maher's improved fastball velocity isn't too big a shock considering he finally has been able to pitch a steady diet of innings in a season. Those extra innings this season have also finally allowed him to hone in on sharpening his secondary pitches.

“The biggest improvement I want from him is that curveball," Riverdogs manager Luis Dorante said. "He’s just got to get that consistency down and command it better. That fastball is coming along really well and he’s got it above 90 mph right now, so being able to throw that with a sink too, he’s got what it takes.”

Maher’s sinker has gained some notoriety even before his injury-plagued 2014 campaign. But now with his curveball finally getting an opportunity to develop, it has given batters some trouble at the plate these days and he and Norton are excited about its future.

“It’s looked great. The key is getting it consistently down and he’s doing a great job so far. The curveball is there for sure,” Norton said.

With just fifteen walks compared to 51 strikeouts so far and allowing less hits [56] than innings pitched [69.1], a great sign for a contact ground ball pitcher, it's quite evident Maher is on the right track.

Maher is feeling “the bug” and if he keeps doing what he’s doing there’s no reason he can’t be up in Tampa by the end of this season or early next season.

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