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Imhof getting comfortable in pro ball

July 9, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Matt Imhof was never really a fan of the six days he'd have to wait in between starts during his time in college. And if things didn't go particularly well in his start on any particular Friday, he hated the six-day wait even more.

So the idea of a five-man rotation Imhof finds himself in the middle of with the Williamsport Crosscutters is much more appealing. Sure, he's had to change his workout and throwing regimens a bit to make sure his arm is ready come the day he's supposed to pitch, but it's something he's enjoying about pro ball.

Imhof, the Philadelphia Phillies' second-round draft pick in June out of Cal Poly, is starting to settle in with the Crosscutters. Since being promoted after one appearance with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Imhof has made two successful starts as he begins to stretch out his arm.

“I'm way more comfortable than I was,” Imhof said Wednesday at Bowman Field following batting practice. “When you first come to a place, you have to get set up with a host family, get used to the field, get used to the routine of coming to the field at a certain time. I'm way more comfortable than I was a week ago.”

Part of the change is switching to pro ball's five-man rotation. At Cal Poly, Imhof was the Mustangs' ace and pitched the opener of every series on Friday nights – and that was it. He's already pitched twice for Williamsport since being called up some 10 days ago, and he's make his home debut Sunday against Tri-City.

The extra pitching has meant subtle changes in Imhof's throwing program. He's throwing less often, and his between starts bullpen session is coming two days after every start as opposed to three or four in college. He's also backed off his weight lifting regimen to make sure he doesn't overdue the stress on his arm.

But with all the changes, he actually prefers the five-man rotation.

“I just love pitching and getting out there quicker and not having to wait a whole week,” Imhof said. “Two days doesn't seem like a big difference, but it is a big difference. You go out there and you're throwing your bullpen two days after your start and you're pitching again two days later.”

The Phillies have been cautious with Imhof as he begins his professional career. He's thrown just 10 innings in his three starts since signing with the Phillies for a reported signing bonus of over $1.1 million. His start Monday against Mahoning Valley was his longest at four innings. He also threw 70 pitches in the outing.

Phillies Director of Player Development Joe Jordan said last week not to expect many of the pitchers drafted this year out of college to throw more than four or five innings an outing as the organization tries to manage the number of innings the young arms are throwing.

But the shorter outings than Imhof is used to hasn't change his approach at all. He's still working mainly off his fastball. It's a fastball which scouting reports say will sit in the low 90s and has some cut to it which will run in on the hands of right-handed batters. It's the pitch which helped Imhof lead Division I baseball averaging more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings at one point this spring.

The establishing of that fastball will allow Imhof to get to his change-up and curveball the second and third times through a batting order. It's worked so far. Imhof has allowed just five hits in his 10 innings, and he struck out a season high five against Mahoning Valley on Monday.

“It's always been my bread-and-butter pitch, even back in high school when I didn't really have any secondary pitches,” Imhof said. “It's always been my M.O. to establish the fastball. It kind of developed in college and I wanted to establish it early to get guys thinking about it, and then work on my other pitches.”

He's trying to gain better command of both his change-up and curveball at this point in his career. He said he wants to be able to have three pitches which he can throw for strikes at any time and in any count.

“I always want to try to keep the fastball command where it is, but I'm trying to establish the change-up earlier in games. I'm always trying to find consistency (with the curveball) and it has its good days and bad days, but it's mostly good days. It usually takes me a couple innings to get it going, but after that it usually goes pretty well.”


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