Ryne Stanek gripped the baseball, locked in on his target and roared a 96 mph fastball into the catcher's mitt.
The next pitch was a curveball that looped past the swinging bat of a Midwest League opponent.
Stanek, a 6-foot-4 right-hander for Bowling Green, is working on an impressive arsenal of pitches and showing signs of mastering the consistency that could have him moving into the fast lane of the Tampa Bay Rays system.
After missing the first month of the season due to offseason hip surgery, Stanek is putting together some stellar numbers. He is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA, striking out 22 and walking only seven in 27 1/3 innings. In his last two starts (out of five overall), he has allowed one run and seven hits, striking out 10 and walking one in 12 frames.
"I'm working on command of my fastball," Stanek said of his development. "I was a little erratic in college, which might have hurt me a little bit, but in pro ball, I've cut down my walks a lot, a lot, a lot."
Stanek had 203 strikeouts and 103 walks during his junior season at Arkansas. The former Razorbacks standout said he doesn't know exactly why he's been able to dramatically reduce the number of walks he allows.
"It just happened," Stanek said. "The ball is coming out better. I have a better feel for what I'm doing, which is nice. I don't really think about it. I don't try to be too fine. In college, I was always trying to be perfect. Here, I try to execute my pitch, instead of being perfect and trying to nibble instead of just attacking."
One of Stanek's areas of emphasis this season is developing his off-speed pitches.
"My changeup is a work in progress," Stanek said. "It's good at times, and other times, I get a little under it. It's becoming a pretty good pitch that I've used a lot. My curveball, which I didn't use a lot in college, has turned into a better pitch now that I've thrown it a lot. That's huge, because now I have a really good mix of pitches."
Stanek tore through the Southeastern Conference his junior season. He was 10-2 overall with a 1.39 ERA, and against SEC opponents he amassed 7-1 record with an SEC-best 0.86 ERA.
Despite stunning numbers in a power conference, Stanek felt somewhat snubbed in the Major League Draft, despite being selected by the Rays with the 29th pick overall.
"With projections and everything, I was expecting to go higher, but whatever," Stanek said. "It wasn't in my control. Of course it added to my drive. I've always played with a little chip on my shoulder. There's always been something that drives me to be better. I was still drafted in the first round, which is a good accomplishment."
Bowling Green pitching coach Bill Moloney said Stanek has done a great job in his recovery from hip surgery.
"Ryne worked really hard at his rehab," Moloney said. "I don't see any changes in the mechanics from when he signed. I give him credit for working hard and coming back."
Familiar face: Fort Wayne's Adolfo Reina, who played for West Michigan last season, blasted a two-run walk-off homer against the Whitecaps for a stunning 8-6 victory Saturday. Reina's round-tripper was an exclamation point on a five-run comeback for the Tincaps in the 10th inning. The Padres claimed Reina in the Rule 5 Draft, and he joined Fort Wayne on May 1. The blast was his first in 124 games, his last coming Aug. 25, 2012, as a member of the Tigers' Class A Advanced club in Lakeland.
'Caps clash, Part II: One day after Reina's dramatic homer, Fort Wayne suffered a franchise-worst 19-1 loss to West Michigan. The Tincaps previous worst margin of defeat was 16 runs, which happened three times: May 18, 1996, at Michigan (20-4); July 20, 1997, against Beloit (17-1); and Aug. 2, 2012, at South Bend (16-0).
Filling the column: Rob Kaminsky, the St. Louis Cardinals' first-round pick in 2013, picked up his first professional win in his fifth start Monday after his bullpen committed blown saves in his previous three outings. Kaminsky hurled 6 2/3 strong innings as Peoria beat Kane County, 5-3.