Curtis Partch admits to getting caught up in the emotions of the game.
The former Merced College star had a solid showing with the Billings Mustangs and Gulf Coast League Reds after being picked by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2007 draft.
But as Partch opened his first full minor league season with the Class-A Dayton Dragons, he couldn't help but try a little too hard.
"That's definitely the toughest part," Partch said. "Sometimes you get excited about where you are and so you go out and overthrow."
Unable to calm himself down, Partch struggled with his command and had a nightmare start to the season.
Leaving too many pitches up in the zone, Partch recorded an ERA over 7.00 in April and over 9.00 in June.
"The split-finger fastball is my out pitch," Partch said. "I'm a groundball pitcher, and it's one of the reasons I struggled.
"I lost the feel for the split-finger.
"The coaches moved me out of the rotation and into the bullpen so I could figure things out."
Instead of becoming discouraged, Partch continued working with the coaching staff and turned his season around.
In 19 appearances after the All-Star break -- including four starts -- Partch posted a 3.56 ERA with 34 strikeouts to just 18 walks.
"I was really pleased with how I finished the season," Partch said. "After having an ERA over 6 in the first half, I was able to finish at 5 even.
"The coaches and the organization told me they were pleased with my progress."
Partch just hopes the Reds were pleased enough to move him up to Class-A Sarasota in the Florida League to start 2009.
"That's what every guy hopes for," Partch said. "You just want to and get a little bit closer to the big leagues.
"But you also know the competition is that much better, so it motivates you to keep improving yourself."
Merced College baseball coach Chris Pedretti doesn't see Partch having any trouble taking the next step.
"I think he's got a real big upside," Pedretti said. "He's got a great body and above average arm strength.
"He's got electric stuff. It's just about developing the ability to make the pitches in the game and Curtis is dedicated to doing that."
With his destination up in the air until the end of Spring Training, Partch is just focused on building on the momentum with which he closed 2008.
"Right now it's just about learning everything you can," Partch said. "What pitches to throw in what situations.
"Learning to control my pitches better.
"2008 ended well and I'm looking to have a good 2009."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
YEARS PRO: 1
ORGANIZATION: Cincinnati Reds
DRAFTED: Selected by the Reds in the 26th round of the 2007 draft.
LAST YEAR: Partch went 5-11 with a 5.00 ERA in 33 appearances for the Class-A Daytona Dragons. He struck out 74 batters in 111.2 innings.