Will Inman isn't used to losing, having suffered two defeats in his first two Minor League seasons.
Inman followed a 6-0 rookie campaign with a 10-2 mark for the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League in 2006, earning MiLB.com's Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year Award.
Inman calls winning the driving force behind his success, but when a rare loss occurs, he admits it motivates him even more. After suffering his first professional defeat on May 21 against Greenville, the 19-year-old right-hander did not lose again for more than three months.
"It's frustrating when I lose," he said. "I'm a hard critic of myself. I always feel like I could have done better. No matter what I do, I'm always trying to win. Losing is just the end of the world to me."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Inman throws a four-seam fastball, a slurve that he can either toss as a curve or tighten into a slider and a change-up. It's confidence in that repertoire that fuels him on the mound, as well as his unwillingness to give in to any batter.
"I think the biggest thing for me to be effective was the fact I don't walk a lot of guys," Inman said. "I throw a lot of strikes. I go right after guys. I hate walking guys. I'd almost rather give up a homer than walk them and let them get on base for free.
"I try to let them put the ball in play, let the fielders behind me help me. I go after them with everything I've got. I don't have the greatest stuff ever, and I know I don't, but I treat it like I do."
Inman snagged the league's ERA title with a 1.71 mark. He put together two dominant stretches, working 26 2/3 scoreless frames while winning his first three decisions from April 13-May 16. After being sidelined with biceps tendinitis for most of June, Inman came back strong. Armed with his change-up, Inman pitched 21 consecutive scoreless frames in early July and won five straight starts from July 16-Aug. 7.
"I finally conquered a change-up midway through the season and it's proved to be a big weapon for me," Inman said. "The first half, I might have thrown a change-up once or twice in a game just to get it over. But later on in the season, after I got hurt, working on the change-up was one of the key things and getting it over for strikes at a 10-12 mph difference than the fastball with the same arm speed."
Inman had his best start of the season on Aug. 7 against Rome, allowing two hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over eight innings in a 4-0 blanking of the Braves. He threw 90 pitches and finished by retiring his last 10 batters.
"Everything was working so well," Inman said. "I was throwing the fastball and the curve. Everything kind of clicked with the change-up. I was keeping hitters off-balance with that. It was all around one of the best games I had all year."
Naturally, the best part of the performance for Inman was that it resulted in a win, bringing him a little closer to his ultimate goal.
"When I signed a Major League Baseball contract out of high school, my whole goal was to get to the Major Leagues as fast as possible and be there as long as possible," he said. "I don't want to be that guy that gets there and is average and just plays pro ball. I want to be the guy that goes out there and dominates for years and years and years and ends up in the Hall of Fame. I want to make a statement when I get there."