Antonini Assumes Role in Rotation

Antonini was a starter in college

Michael Antonini, the Mets 18th round selection in last June's draft, made quite an impact in the Brooklyn bullpen last season after starting the season in Kingsport. Though the majority of his innings n 2007 came in relief, he received starts down the homestretch which set the stage for him to join the rotation during Spring Training. Inside Pitch spoke with Antonini about his transition.

The second-year southpaw arrived in Brooklyn at the end of July last season after posting sharp number as a starter in Kingsport rotation [1-1, 3.71, 18 K in 17 IP], but on the Cyclones roster Michael Antonini was an out machine, locking down games as a long reliever. In 19.2 innings pitched, he did not record a decision but surrendered just a single earned run and gave up 13 hits.

He ended the 2007 season on a high note, throwing 8.2 scoreless innings in his last two outings as a starter. It was those performances which he used as a launching point into Spring Training where he began the work needed to turn himself back into a starter. After vigorous conditioning, Antonini feels ready to go.

"I feel real good about what I did in the winter. I think I really got myself in shape to do well for in a long season as a starter," he said. "I feel that the strength and conditioning that we go through here in Spring Training is second to none as they bear down us to get us prepared."

The most important factor in his ability to start is his slider. Antonini already boasts a strong fastball/changeup combination which suited him for success as a reliever, but without consistency in his slider he will have a tough time navigating the second and third time through the order.

"I've been getting everything stronger because I need all my pitches for the full season, and even though my fastball and changeup have been reliable for me, getting more consistency in my slider has been a top focus. I need to throw it for strikes and I'm developing it as a strikeout pitch too."

Regardless of how his repertoire was developing, the decision to move Antonini into the rotation was already in place, but for the 22-year-old hurler and starter his whole life, there are no nerves about the switch.

"I've been working as a starter so far during Spring Training and from talking with coaches it looks like role I'm going to stay in. The transition was easy for me because I was starting for pretty much my whole life until in Brooklyn. I like starting, getting the feel for the game and putting my team in a position to win," he detailed.

No matter his excitement for the new role, the competition for rotation spots is fierce in Port St. Lucie, so not only does Antonini want to improve his repertoire, but he knows that to earn the spot he desires he will need the elements that led him to success last year.

"There is a lot of great competition down here and just being a part of that makes me better I feel, but I need to do a lot of the things I did well last year," he said.

"I need to get ahead then make pitcher's pitches and not put myself in a position where I have to throw a fastball over the plate. I have to be able to command the game and dictate what I want to throw and not give the hitter's the advantage. Being able to get ahead of hitters and throw strikes is really important for me."

Yet Antonini's confidence is not shaken no matter the typical struggles that befall a pitcher during Spring Training. With a quality collection of pitches and a unflappable mentality on the mound, his goal is match his desire with victories.

"I come to the park everyday with great intensity so I can put in the work that'll get me to as a high of an affiliate as possible so I can move up as fast as I can, but where I go is the organization's decision."

"I can't decide anything, all I can do is perform the best I can and that will give me the opportunities that I hope for," he said.

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