Last season, Visalia pitcher Andrew Chafin learned a lot about the day-to-day business of being a Minor Leaguer. He started the year confident in his fastball and slider, and positive results followed.
But when his fastball command started to slip, issues compounded for the D-backs' No. 19 prospect. He leaned heavily on his slider, and hitters stopped offering at the pitch. The walks piled up, and by the end of the year, his ERA ballooned to 4.93.
Chafin suffered similar difficulties in his first start of 2013, but on Tuesday, the left-hander did what he couldn't last year -- adjust on the fly. The result -- seven dominant innings in Visalia's 3-0 win over Bakersfield.
Chafin (1-1) struck out 10 and allowed four hits and a walk. After giving up four earned runs in three innings in a loss on April 4, the rapid turnaround has shown off the 22-year-old's improving approach to the game.
"We worked on some stuff during my side day," he said. "When I was looking at film, I noticed I had some timing issues. I was a little overexcited the first day, too rambunctious, and I think that threw my timing out of whack."
Chafin also noted how similar the issues seemed to what plagued the Kent State product in 2012.
"I think it's mainly a mechanical issue more than anything," he said. "I've always had trouble with my timing and keeping everything under control. I'll get excited and I'll get to the plate faster than my arm sometimes. When I stay back and stay together, I'm able to throw my fastball where I want."
Chafin's future will depend on how well he can corral his command issues, as well as the development of his changeup. He used the pitch sparingly for much of 2012, but spent time developing the offering this spring and mixed in a few Tuesday.
"In Spring Training, I used (the changeup) quite a bit," he said. "I'm getting really comfortable throwing it. I think I even used it today in an 0-2 count and got a guy looking, buckled his knees a little. My confidence in it has improved a lot since last year."
Bakersfield's only baserunner in the first three innings was Juan Silverio, who reached first after a dropped third strike. Chafin struck out the side in the fifth and allowed just one man to reach safely in his final three innings of work. The shutout was Visalia's third this year in the hitter-friendly California League.
Chafin knows the league well. Arizona sent the 2011 first-round Draft pick (43rd overall) to Visalia at the start of 2012 -- an aggressive move for the college arm. He logged 122 1/3 innings with the Rawhide last season.
"Obviously, it's a hitters' league," he said. "After spending the year here last year, I know what I need to do to keep the home runs at bay, so to speak. I feel like I have a good approach toward everything this year.
"I'm getting a much better feel for my mechanics and my delivery to the plate. Tonight, I could make that pitch and could feel what I did wrong and correct it, make a quality pitch after that. I'm definitely maturing as far as that goes."