Stoneburner Carrying The Momentum

Stoneburner was able to stay healty in 2013

Graham Stoneburner had a nagging groin injury in 2012 that limited him to just 45 innings a year after a neck injury limited him to 91 innings. He finally put together his first full healthy season in three years in 2013 and did a solid job overall between the two highest minor league levels, and he hopes to carry that momentum with him in 2014.

"I thought it went well," Stoneburner said of his season. "I stayed healthy the entire year which was my main goal. I thought I pitched well at times and left some room for improvement but I don't think there is any year where you look back on and don't leave room for improvement."

He posted a combined 4.30 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and did so while not only moving back and forth between the teams but shuffling back and forth between relieving and starting on each team.

"I'm not really sure what the plan was," he admitted. "All I know is when I was told to pitch I went and pitched. Whenever I got the opportunity to pitch I tried to take advantage of it and keep it simple.

"It didn't really matter what role I was in or where I was pitching just as long as I got to pitch. I just needed to focus on that and when I got an opportunity I had to try and capitalize on it."

The biggest thing he capitalized on was getting some of his former plus stuff back. The nagging injuries the previous two seasons had seen his once low to mid-90s fastball dip down to the high 80s and getting back to pitching regularly allowed his stuff to come back in 2013.

"It still didn't get back to where I'd like it to be but I'd say from about the middle of June to early July I could feel my arm strength coming back and by the end of July I started throwing a little bit harder and the stuff got better.

"The more innings I got the stronger I felt so that was encouraging. Since I got more work my arm strength did improve and hopefully I can stay healthy and keep that improvement [going]."

He was back in the 91-93 mph range as a starting pitcher by season's end and was sitting even higher when he was being used as a reliever, but more than anything that great sinking action came back this year.

"That was one thing I felt like improved this year," he said happily. "I kept the ball down and I was getting some movement on the fastball and good angle. I think as my arm strength increases I'll get more of that. It's going to be later and sharper, and all of that good stuff."

He even made marked improvements with his slider, a pitch that had never really became a consistent weapon for him. It's still not quite as consistent as he would like it to be, but at least now he knows what he needs to do to get it to that point.

"The biggest thing for me is that it stays on my fastball plane and then breaks off of that plane versus having a hump in it," he said. "If you want that Pitch Trax stuff you'll see the flight of the ball to home plate and a good slider for me is one that has that downward trajectory like my fastball would and then drop out of the bottom of the zone or to the bottom of the zone.

"A bad one would be it would go above that trajectory and then break back into the zone. Some would say it would have a little hump in it and that's what I want to stay away from."

He had faith in his slider for the most part this season even though his lower strikeout totals might not exactly suggest it. He struck out just 42 batters this year in all but he says that was more of a designed plan given his job description in 2013.

"I would like to get more strikeouts and I think settling into a role would help increase that. Strikeouts come in bunches. Once you get into a rhythm and get your finishing pitch and putting guys away they'll come quick. But for me this year I was asked a lot of times to go multiple innings on a shorter pitch count.

"I had a limited pitch count and I needed to go deep into the game so I can't go five innings on 60 pitches and strike out eight guys. I'd go three innings on average.

"To go deeper into games you're going to want to be more efficient with your pitches, especially on a limited pitch count, so that was my focus in a lot my starts this year, to get as deep into the game as I can and do that by trying to induce contact."

He felt he did get in a rhythm there towards the end of the season and the goal next season, now that he has gotten a full season under his belt and has his full health behind him, is to start clicking more next year.

"I think so. Towards the end of the year I was feeling really good. In August I felt like I pitched really well and in my last three starts I felt really good about it. You just carry that momentum into next year and go from there.

"Everything felt great this year and I was injury free. I pitched more innings than I had in a while but my body was feeling so good that I wished I had pitched a whole lot more than that.

"The more I pitched the better I felt. Getting more innings and more reps, going into next year I just hope I get that and take advantage of it," he concluded.

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