A strong season for Waxahachie’s Colton Cain is coming to a slow end with the West Virginia Power.
The left-handed pitcher has been moved to the bullpen after tossing 95 innings through his 19 starts this season for the Class A Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate; the organization wants to reduce his workload the rest of the year.
“My pitch counts were up to six innings and 90 pitches and now I’m being moved to the bullpen to limit my pitches and innings,” Cain said in an interview last weekend at Lakewood, N.J. “I just want to finish strong.”
Cain has been the most consistent starting pitcher for the Power, leading all starters in ERA 3.69 ERA, innings (102) and home runs allowed (6). And his 1.16 WHIP is a strong indication of his ability to get outs.
“We are very pleased with Colton’s development to-date,” Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said. “The move to the pen is simply to control his innings and protect his workload. He has shown solid development progress and performance.”
But the pitcher still isn’t satisfied with his 2011 season.
“I think I’ve done a good job overall but there’s always room for improvement,” Cain said. “Particularly for me, it’s been trying to improve my secondary pitches and learning to trust them.”
Of those secondary pitches, Cain has focused on developing his change-up, a key pitch going forward.
“For me the biggest thing is trusting my change-up and getting a feel for it,” Cain said. “Out of high school, it was mostly fastball and curveball and to hitters at this level and hitters down the road, my change-up can really be a valuable pitch.”
The move to the bullpen has proven to be a difficult adjustment for Cain. In three appearances, he has allowed six runs over seven innings.
“I had my first appearance out of the bullpen last week (7/29) and it was a learning day. I try to treat it as a start and not try to do too much. Whether starting or coming out of the bullpen, when you are on the mound there is no signs of slowing down. I’m only thinking of getting in and getting after it.”
His 3.15 ERA as a starter is a strong indication of what excites the Pirates about Cain’s development after being drafted in the eighth round in 2009.
But statistics aren’t Cain’s focus. His goal for the season was to just make it through the whole year healthy.
“As a starter, I try and give them five-six (innings) and be someone they can count on, Cain said. “Anytime you can be consistent like that each time it’s your turn (in the rotation) and help the ballclub is a good thing.”
His performance at West Virginia, the Pirates’ low Class A team, appears to warrant consideration for promotion next season to high Class A Bradenton.
“Colton has positioned himself well to compete for a rotation spot in the Florida State League next year,” Stark said. “Most encouraging about his performance is how he’s achieving those results, which should translate as he moves through the system.”
Cain also knows about the Pirates’ 18-consecutive losing seasons and wants to eventually be part of turning that around.
“I’d like to be ready to go into spring training and compete for a spot in High A (the Pirates’ Bradenton Marauders) as far as my goals for next year,” Cain said. “The (Pirates) fans are dying to get out there and support us. That’s pretty sweet. I really looking forward to getting up there and start the winning.”