The 22-year-old pitcher who was ranked sixth overall by ITW in the pre-season prospect rankings, has been struggling with slow starts to games. Spoone, who said he was limited to 85 pitches in his first three starts back, attributes the slow start to mechanical issues and control.
"I think my mechanics start to get too out of sync in the beginning, and then it comes to me, but tonight I did walk a couple guys in the beginning," Spoone told ITW after shutting out Altoona through six innings on June 28. "I can handle it when it's 2-2, 3-2, foul-off, walk, I can handle that. I can't handle ball one, ball two, ball three, strike, ball four. I can't handle almost four straight balls to walk a guy because you're never around the strike zone. At least tonight, when I [walked batters], I was in the zone a lot better."
Spoone's new catcher, Matt Wieters, also noticed the early struggles to late success pattern in his first game catching Spoone.
"[Spoone] had great stuff and you have to make sure you don't let him try and do too much," Wieters said. "When he tries to do too much he over throws, but once he settles down, he was good for the last four innings."
Bowie pitching coach Mike Griffin also echoed some of the problems Spoone has had in regards to slow starts.
"That's what we've seen since he's come back, [Spoone] starts slow and finishes strong," Griffin said. "Yesterday, the slow, got a little bit better, and his finish got a little bit longer. It lasted only about an inning and a half instead of two or three."
As for the mechanical inconsistencies, Griffin said that the mechanical adjustment is about keeping his head in place when Spoone is pitching.
"It's pretty simple and he was able to correct it [on June 28]," Griffin explained. "It's something minor for a pitcher and he made the adjustment [on June 28]."
Even though Spoone has struggled with his control since coming back, when he has been in the strike zone and getting batters out, he has been on top of his game. In June Spoone posted a 2.98 Go/Ao ratio and in his most recent start, Thursday, he struck out seven, induced six grounders, and had just one popup (the only other out was a base runner caught stealing). This is right on par with last year's 2.68 Go/Ao ratio in Frederick.
When Spoone's heavy 91-93 M.P.H. fastball is in the zone, all opponents can do is pound it into the ground, but when he lacks command he, like any other pitcher, will struggle. Orioles Director of Scouting Joe Jordan said Spoone can be tough to catch when he is all over the place, but it is now time for Spoone to take his game to the next level.
"Chorye, at the end of last year, was our best minor league pitcher, and no one was close to him with what he did in August and September," Jordan told ITW. "I think the setback affected that, but what we saw [June 28] was hopefully a start of getting on another one of those runs."
With a second spring training out of the way, it is now, according to Jordan, also time to continue his growth as a pitcher.
"He's grown so much as a pitcher the last year. He knew [June 28] about the fourth inning that his best pitch was the sinker. For me that's growth. That's really starting to understand what you are."
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