A ballplayer with big league aspirations doesn't want to get too comfortable in the Minors, but when it came time for left-hander Trevor Reckling
to recapture his form, the Los Angeles Angels sent him to a comfort zone.
A Texas League All-Star and Futures Game participant last season with Arkansas, Reckling struggled at Triple-A Salt Lake to start 2010. After he went 4-7 with an 8.53 ERA in 14 starts for the Bees, the Angels sent him to Arkansas and roomy Dickey-Stephens Park to work on his command.
"It's actually going pretty well," Reckling said. "I'm getting back and throwing stuff like I used to do. I've got my coaches around again to give me information, something that helped me last year -- just get back on track and get things going again."
Since it opened in 2007, Dickey-Stephens Park has been known mostly as a pitcher's haven. Though the dimensions are fairly standard -- 332 feet to the left-field corner, 400 to center and 330 to right -- there is a 417-foot gap in left-center field and the air off the Arkansas River in North Little Rock tends to keep balls in the park.
Reckling thrived in that environment in 2009 after making a quick jump to Arkansas from Class A Rancho Cucamonga because of injuries within the organization. The 21-year-old New Jersey native was 8-7 with a 2.93 ERA with the Travelers last season, earning a promotion to Salt Lake to start the 2010 campaign.
"The ballpark is big, man," Reckling said of Dickey-Stephens. "You can let them hit."
But even with last year's success, there were signs Reckling had things to work on. He led the Texas League with 75 walks and 14 wild pitches and seemed to favor secondary pitches like his curve and changeup over his fastball, which he has been struggling to command this season.
At Salt Lake's Spring Mobile Ballpark, the distance is 345 to left, 420 to center and 345 to right, but the thin air allows the ball to travel.
"A guy might hit just a deep fly ball and it's 20 rows back," Arkansas pitching coach Ken Patterson said. "Here, a deep fly ball and our center fielder doesn't have to move."
Combine the Salt Lake ballpark with hitters who have Major League experience, and Reckling discovered his education was not complete.
"I was pretty much beating myself -- walking guys and getting behind," Reckling said. "When you get behind, the guys up there, they let it go."
Reckling was charged with 19 runs over his last two starts at Salt Lake, pitching 7 2/3 innings combined. Soon after, the Angels sent him to Arkansas and told him to work on his fastball command in a ballpark where he could get away with the occasional mistake.
"They pretty much told me, 'We want you to go back down there for a couple starts, get your fastball command together and get your confidence back, and we'll see you soon,'" Reckling said.
"He's in a good place mentally," Patterson said. "He's not feeling sorry for himself. He has a good attitude, a good work ethic. He's never been afraid to work hard. We've been making some changes, a little bit of mechanical changes and a little bit of mental changes."
Reckling's first start back in Double-A on June 27 ended after four batters when he developed a cramp in his left biceps. What was to be his second start at Dickey-Stephens -- against the Frisco RoughRiders on Sunday -- was delayed 1 1/2 hours by rain.
Reckling has shown flashes of his old self since returning to Double-A. After striking out three of the four hitters he faced in his abbreviated outing June 27, he fanned seven in six solid innings for the win July 5 in Frisco and then yielded one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings in a no-decision Sunday.
"The sky is still the limit for this guy," Magallanes said. "There's a lot of upside."
"One game at a time, one pitch at a time, one out at a time," Reckling said. "Let me take care of business down here first, show them I can do the things that they ask, and when the time comes, it comes. I'll be ready."
Battle royale: Gary Hogan outpointed Jose Canseco, 39-37, for an unofficial boxing victory in a match that preceded the Arkansas-Midland game at Dickey-Stephens Park on Friday night. Hogan, 60, an associate athletic director at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and former local TV sports anchor, had boxing exhibitions against heavyweights Mike Quarry and John Tate in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Proceeds for the fight went to the Ray Rodgers boxing gym in Little Rock, where Hogan trains. Canseco, 46, has dabbled in boxing and mixed martial arts since his baseball career ended in 2002.
"He won the first round. He got me a few times," Hogan said. "I threw more punches and moved around the ring. I won the last three. I thought he got a little tired, to be honest with you, but he did a nice job coming in. I really do appreciate him coming in and doing this."
"It was a lot of fun; I'm glad nobody got hurt," Canseco said. "A great man right there and a great match. He can box, I'm telling you. He's 60 years old, and he can fight."
Absent with leave: Frisco manager Steve Buechele wasn't present for the RoughRiders' series opener at Arkansas on Sunday. Buechele, in his first year with Frisco, was a coach on the U.S. Team at the Futures Game. Buechele also missed time to watch his son Garrett play for Oklahoma in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., in June.
Skid stopper: Corpus Christi ended its 16-game losing streak with a 6-5 victory over Northwest Arkansas at Whataburger Field on Sunday. Jonathon Fixler fell a double short of the cycle, and Fernando Abad pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings in relief as the Hooks (1-15) picked up their first victory of the second half.