It was something of a perfect storm for Sam Selman.
The Royals' No. 12 prospect was coming off a stellar professional debut, in which he earned Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year honors, when he went to camp this spring. He was greeted by a two-level jump to the Class A Advanced Carolina League and met the challenge with a fairly drastic malfunction in his mechanics.
Midway through the season, Selman thinks he's solved those mechanical flaws and he also feels more capable of handling the more advanced competition. His results continued to trend in a positive direction Saturday as he pitched five scoreless frames in Wilmington's 11-7 victory over Salem.
The Vanderbilt product struck out six and allowed three hits and a walk. It was the second consecutive strong outing for the 22-year-old left-hander after his rocky start against the Red Sox on June 10. Salem scored eight runs -- five earned -- and chased him before he could record an out.
Selman (6-5), who lowered his ERA to 4.40, rebounded by holding Winston-Salem to two runs -- one earned -- on three hits over six innings on June 15. After recording the first out, he joked to third baseman Dan Mateo, "I'm already doing better than last start."
He thinks his turnaround is tied to mechanical adjustments made to correct the flaws he picked up in Spring Training.
"For the past couple starts, I've tried to more consistently finish over my front knee," he said. "That was a problem early on in the season and I was leaving the ball up because I wasn't finishing down through.
"I watched some video with [pitching coach Steve] Luebber and I wasn't finishing. I was releasing from an upright position and I was leaving pitches up in the zone."
The adjustment has helped him sharpen his already promising slider and increased his confidence in his curveball. The latter breaking ball is one Selman hadn't thrown since high school, but he and Luebber decided to re-introduce this season to deepen Selman's repertoire. The 12-to-6 pitch provides a third offering in the slot, where his inconsistent changeup used to reside.
Selman's slider, meanwhile, has flashed plus potential in the past while working off his fastball, which can run into the high 90s. The southpaw thinks he's throwing the slider better now than he has at any point.
"I've been working with Steve Luebber, trying to make it tighter and throw it harder," Selman said. "It used to be more of a slurvy breaking ball. The past couple of outings, I've thrown it harder with tighter spin, and that's been good. It mixes with my fastball well."
Selman's confidence to work within the strike zone also has helped. Through his first seven starts, he walked 28 hitters over 29 innings while fanning only 25. In the six starts since, his strikeouts-to-walk ratio is 30-to-16 over 31 innings.
The recent results are more in line with what Selman showed as Pitcher of the Year with Rookie-level Idaho Falls in 2012. In 13 games, including 12 starts, he went 5-4 with a 2.09 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 22 walks over 60 1/3 innings for the Chukars, allowing just one home run with a .204 opponents' batting average.
With his 2012 mechanics and confidence recaptured, the results are falling in line.
"At the beginning of the High-A season, I was unsure of how I could compete in this league after skipping Low-A," Selman said. "I got off to a rocky start. The last couple starts, I've been building confidence. I'm realizing that if my stuff is there and my command is there, I can compete with anyone."