The Philadelphia Phillies were counting on a bounce-back year from Brody Colvin
after a disappointing 2011 season.
Instead, Colvin struggled even more in the first seven weeks with Clearwater than he had the season before, and something needed to be done to snap the right-hander out of his funk.
A trip to the bullpen for a mental checkup proved to be just the trick.
Colvin is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in seven starts since his relief stint and is again looking like a pitcher worthy of being the Phillies' No. 3 prospect and ranking No. 67 on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
"My problem the last year had been over-thinking everything," Colvin said. "They wanted me to go to the bullpen to clear my mind."
It worked. Colvin was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in five relief appearance and returned to the rotation with a new mind-set and the command that had eluded him.
The 21-year-old from Lafayette, La., has struck out 42 and walked 11 in 40 innings since the bullpen stint, this after walking 20 in 20 1/3 innings over four May starts in which he allowed 17 earned runs.
"In the bullpen it's quicker and you don't have much time to think," said Colvin, who was 2-4 with a 5.64 ERA in his first 10 starts. "When you start, you are preparing and preparing, and you have a lot of time to think about everything too much.
"I've embraced the mind-set of a reliever and taken it into my starts. Think less, let my ability take over and throw strikes."
Colvin has allowed more than two earned runs in just one of his seven outings since returning to the rotation. Most revealing of his rebirth was a late-June start against Lakeland in which he stuck out nine without a walk in seven scoreless innings.
"My control is way better," Colvin said. "I'm just throwing and trusting my stuff. I had worked on so many things that I just needed to step back and trust myself."
Colvin's overall numbers are still just so-so. But at 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA, he is on the right road again after a dismal 2011 and frightful start this year.
It appeared that the Phillies had a steal when they took Colvin in the seventh round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and gave him a $900,000 bonus to forsake a scholarship to Louisiana State.
Colvin has a mid-90s fastball, plus curve and solid changeup. But the results weren't there because of inconsistent command.
Expected to be a staff ace in an impressive rotation last year at Clearwater, Colvin was 3-8 with a 4.71 ERA while trying to polish mechanical adjustments and battling back issues.
"I used to throw across my body, and they said I'd probably injury myself doing that," Colvin said. "So I had to clean up my arm action in the back and drive more toward the plate.
"But I had a tight back at the beginning of last year and it derailed me. Now I finally feel good."
Colvin hasn't passed just a physical hurdle, though. He's cleared a mental one, too. The improved results since his mind check in the bullpen are there for all to see.
Austin sidelined: Tyler Austin suffered a concussion when he was hit in the helmet by a pitch during his first game with Tampa and had to miss the Futures Game. The New York Yankees' No. 5 prospect was hitting .320 with 14 homers, 54 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 70 games with Charleston in the Class A South Atlantic League when promoted. The 20-year-old outfielder had an on-base percentage of .405 and a slugging mark of .598 with Charleston.
Alcantara red hot: Daytona shortstop Arismendy Alcantara had a four-hit game three days after falling just a single short of the cycle. The switch-hitter was batting .302 with 13 doubles, seven triples, seven homers and 51 RBIs. Alcantara, 20, also had stolen 25 bases while being caught just four times. The native of the Dominican Republic was hitting .337 since the All-Star break.
Dickerson productive: Bradenton first baseman Alex Dickerson drove in 18 runs during his first 15 games of July to take over the league lead with 66 RBIs. He was hitting .345 for the month, raising his season average to .295. Dickerson had 30 extra-base hits, including eight homers. Pittsburgh's No. 13 prospect was a third-round pick in the 2011 Draft out of Indiana University.
Barnes promoted: Dunedin's Danny Barnes, the Florida State League leader with 22 saves, was promoted by Toronto to Double-A New Hampshire. He was 1-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 36 games and had struck out 43 in 36 1/3 innings. Barnes was taken by the Blue Jays in the 35th round of the 2010 Draft after pitching for Princeton University.