Antonini On The Rise

Antonini ended '08 with a 9-7 mark and 2.77 ERA

Second-year southpaw Michael Antonini experienced as much change as any pitcher in the organization this past season. Originally the Opening Day starter in Savannah, he ended the year with a good showing in Double-A after breezing through a short stint in St. Lucie. Inside Pitch caught up with Antonini prior to departing for his winter league assignment.

2007 18th round selection Michael Antonini did not expect his season to come together like this. The 23-year-old left-hander [previously drafted by the Phillies in the 41st round in 2006] was given the ball on Opening Day in Savannah. It is plausible to say his six inning, hitless performance that day set the tone for his season.

Antonini went on to put together a very steady performance with the Sandgnats in which he posted a 4-4 record with a 2.71 ERA in 13 starts [73 IP], but it was in St. Lucie where his momentum really accelerated.

In seven Florida State League starts, he virtually shutdown the opposition. Antonini raced to a 4-0 record and a 1.84 ERA and a 33/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings while hitters notched a .211 batting average. Yet the biggest surprise was his promotion to Binghamton after roughly three weeks in St. Lucie, though he confidently believed his performance in the FSL warranted the move.

"Going to Binghamton was a bit of a shock, but I was excited," he said. "I knew they had a great staff there but a few injuries and promotions of guys like Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell really opened doors for me and I was thankful for it."

"Being my first year in the long-season leagues I wasn't sure how things would go, but I couldn't be happier with how things worked out. I felt that I deserved the promotion to Binghamton, but I wasn't going to get ahead of myself. I still had show I could pitch there."

Antonini did show a strong capacity to handle Eastern League opposition. Though he went just 1-3 in eight starts and gave up a startling number of home runs [10] in 45 2/3 innings pitched, he remained true to his game thanks to a solid routine and, more specifically, the rapid development on his changeup.

Despite giving up a high number of longballs, his changeup kept Double-A hitters from locking in further on his 88-90 MPH fastball, and allowed him to battle through lineups. Now able to spot the changeup in any count, Antonini does a much better job at altering hitters' timing.

"There was a lot to adjust to with the new hitters. The Double-A hitters have tons of experience and they can hit a lot good pitches."

"My changeup has come a long way since last year and was important against these hitters. I started working on it first in Kingsport and developing it further and now it's a great pitch for me. Having the ability to throw a 2-0 or 3-1 changeup couldn't be a question mark at this level, and having the confidence to throw it helped against these hitters because when they see me come up, they think I only have a fastball. Throwing the changeup in fastball counts really mixes it up," he explained.

Perhaps Antonini's most significant, overall success in Binghamton was simply his ability to remain strong throughout his stint. He went at least six innings in five of his eight starts and lasted less than five innings just once. But his ability to jump levels and improve as a pitcher along the way has his stock sharply on the rise.

Now, he gears up for his winter assignment to Puerto Rico where he hopes to continue down the path he blazed during the regular season. A strong fall performance will further entrench him among the highest risers in the organization, and he is eager to make it happen.

"I just want to go down to Puerto Rico, have a good fall season which will hopefully open more eyes in the organization for next year. Getting that experience in Double-A already really makes it a totally successful season and now I'm ready and excited for Puerto Rico and to start the next season."

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