Jeff Manship found an interesting way to work on his focus. It all started when the New Britain Rock Cats starter took a line drive off his back.
With two outs in the second inning, Trenton's Seth Fortenberry hit a ball back up the middle that Manship stopped with his body before making the final out of the inning. Then, on his way back to the dugout, he fell down the stairs.
"I don't know what hurt more, my pride after being dominated by the stairs there or the line drive to my side," Manship said.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander didn't let either incident -- or the reaction of his teammates -- interfere with his best start of a season as he allowed just one hit over seven innings in the Rock Cats' 7-6 victory over the Thunder.
Manship said the team had just applied non-slip paint to the dugout stairs, but the former 14th-round pick out of Notre Dame insists it only made things worse.
"I don't know what happened but, hopefully, not a lot of people in the stands saw that," Manship said.
What everyone at New Britain Stadium saw was a 24-year-old who found the pinpoint control of his curveball that he's been seeking all season. He mixed in a solid changeup and struck out five while walking one. He found success when he stopped trying to be perfect with his location.
Eduardo Nunez ended any thoughts of a no-hitter in the fourth inning when he reached on an infield single. Manship followed by walking Reegie Corona.
"I think all my stuff is finally coming around," he said. "I was struggling a little bit at first, but I threw well today. It's just nice going into my next outing, it's a nice segue, having that confidence."
After his first two starts of the season, Manship had a 10.13 ERA and a pair of losses. He had given up at least two runs in all four outings before Saturday. Against the Thunder, however, he avoided falling behind in the count.
"The problem was just not getting ahead of hitters and then, when I would get ahead, I would fall behind pretty much right away," Manship said. "I was trying to make too much of a perfect pitch in certain counts where I just needed to catch a good amount of the plate.
"I would say I've definitely improved a lot. I've just learned so much since joining pro ball, which is amazing. Hopefully, I continue to throw well and move up as quickly as possible."
Mason Kelley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.