Naturals' Selman harnesses command

Royals prospect records season-high eight strikeouts over six innings

Sam Selman lowered his ERA from 3.90 to 3.29, which ranks eighth in the Texas League. (John Owen/NW Arkansas Naturals)

By Ashley Marshall / | May 21, 2014 11:26 PM ET

Don't call Sam Selman's strong performance Wednesday evening a comeback.

That word -- comeback -- implies he's back to his best and right where he wants to be. Instead, Selman sees his outing as the start of something new. A stepping point to better things. A fresh start.

Selman allowed two singles, a double and a walk while recording a season-high eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings before Double-A Northwest Arkansas dropped a 2-0 decision to San Antonio.

"If I had my command every single time, that would be great, but that isn't baseball," said the Royals' No. 12 prospect, who hit a batter, uncorked a wild pitch and threw 60 of 89 pitches for strikes. "Part of growing up is knowing that even if you don't have your 'A' stuff, you still have to try to find a way to give your team a chance to win. It's part of the learning experience.

"Tonight was just another start. I'm probably going to have high-20s starts this year. It was just another building block. You have to take the positives and negatives from the previous outing and try to improve on it. It's all about building."

Selman stranded two baserunners in the first inning before setting down 12 of his next 13 batters. Only one member of the Missions recorded an extra-base hit against the 23-year-old left-hander, who posted back-to-back strikeouts to end his evening and strand Yeison Asencio in scoring position.

As happy as the Vanderbilt product was about the eight punchouts, he was more pleased with the fact he issued a season-low one walk.

Walks have plagued Selman, a 2012 second-round Draft pick, over the past two seasons. He issued 85 over 125 1/3 innings for Class A Advanced Wilmington last year and entered Wednesday's outing with 20 walks and 26 strikeouts over 32 1/3 innings in seven Texas League starts.

"The walks were more important [than the strikeouts]," Selman said. "Strikeouts come and go, but tonight I was able to attack guys and get ground balls and fly balls. Last time, I went four innings and threw 100 pitches, which is never a good thing. Tonight, I was able to pound the zone and go six. Minimizing the walks was a big thing."

Selman utilized a low- to mid-90s fastball, a slider that he described as his top pitch Wednesday night and a curveball. And he started mixing in his changeup the second time through the lineup when the Missions started sitting on the heater.

Maybe more importantly, he was able to locate his fastball early in the count. An inability to do so has been the cause of many of his control problems.

"I always try to work on my command," Selman said. "The key with [pitching coach] Jim Brower is establishing the first pitch for a strike because that opens up the other off-speed pitches. I have a tendency to cut some fastballs in, so it helps to pound the outside corner with the straight fastball.

"Sometimes I have a tendency to fly open. I pull off the fastball and it cuts. Sometimes I yank my body and overdo it, sometimes I will ease off it. I'm just trying to find that balance between too much and too little. It's in the arm action and motion. Sometimes when I try to baby the first pitch in instead of power it in, it cuts."

Wednesday was Selman's longest outing of the season. Only twice in his career -- both last year in the Carolina League -- has he gone deeper than six innings. In the latter of those two starts, Selman tied a career high with 11 strikeouts over eight hitless innings in Wilmington's 1-0, 10-inning win over Potomac on Aug. 24.

Against San Antonio, Selman again exited a scoreless contest and did not factor in the decision. Matthew Murray (0-2) allowed a run on two hits over two innings and the Missions tacked on an insurance run off Wilking Rodriguez in the ninth.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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