Former Blue Devils pitching in

slynch@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 24, 2013 

BEA AHBECK CASSON/ Minor leaguer Curtis Partch helps out at Merced College's baseball practice at the school in Merced Wednesday. (1-23-13)

Nate Devine's heart still belongs with his pitchers.

The first-year Merced College baseball coach has other duties vying for his attention these days, however.

No problem. Devine has simply leaned on a couple of former protégés to free up his time.

The annual migration of former MC players and current pros returning to Blue Devil Field has an added twist this season.

In addition to preparing for the coming baseball campaign, some Blue Devil alumni are taking a more hands-on approach.

Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Shawn Stuart and Cincinnati Reds prospect Curtis Partch -- who was recently added to the team's 40-man roster -- have helped assume a number of pitching coach duties while Devine focuses on the team big picture.

"Stuart's been here pretty much since his season ended," Devine said. "So he's been around helping out all through fall ball. "Him and Partch have been a big help doing some of the day-to-day things with the pitchers so I can focus a little more on other things.

"It's great to have a couple guys that have played for me and that I can really trust. I wouldn't leave my pitchers to just anyone.

"The kids really absorb everything that they say because they know that they started in the exact same place and have made it big."

Stuart and Partch are just two among a handful of pro ball players who are working out with the Blue Devils as they prepare for spring training.

Detroit Tigers hurler Doug Fister and Bradin Hagens (Arizona Diamondbacks) have also been regulars.

Devine has taken advantage of all of their services, including a Q-and-A after his staff watched Fister toss a bullpen session.

"It's been fun," Stuart said. "I could definitely see myself getting into coaching, so it's been a good experience. I've just been helping with little things like mechanics, mental stuff, going through game preparations that I've experienced.

"Almost everything I know, Devine taught me, so I'm basically just reteaching it through a different voice."

Partch said the work is keeping him from suffering idle hands.

"I like it. It keeps me busy," Partch said. "I'm not a guy that likes too much down time.

"Every year I come out and throw anyway, but Nate's got a little bit more on his plate and so it's nice to make things a little easier."

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