"When I got called up to Portland last year I was kind of pressing and was getting too amped up," he said. "I'd cruise through three innings, but getting out of those fourth and fifth innings was something I struggled with."
Building and maintaining a solid mental approach to the game was a top priority for Balcom-Miller in the offseason, and preserving that mentality throughout his first full year in Portland will be equally important.
"He can get ahead of the game speed. There were points last year when the game got a little quick on him, but that just comes with experience and getting comfortable with the league," Portland Manager Kevin Boles said.
"Now he's able to slow things down. If he doesn't make a pitch, he goes onto the next one; he turns the page. He makes sure he's ready for the next pitch, and it's really served him well."
Balcom-Miller (1-0) spent the offseason in Savannah, GA working out at D1 Sports Training, a training center geared toward preparing elite-athletes for the next level, whether that means getting faster, stronger, or in Balcom-Miller's, more flexible and getting his arm in shape.
"I was at D1 five days a week just getting prepared for this season," Balcom-Miller said. "My trainer was great. He helped me with some flexibility and caught some bullpens, and I was able to start long-tossing and have a couple strong bullpens under my belt before Spring Training even started."
The West Valley College [CA] product arrived in Ft. Myers on Feb. 4 ready to work not only on his mentality, but to develop his pitches and correct some minor mechanical flaws in his delivery.
Generally a two-seam fastball guy in the past, Balcom-Miller focused on making his four-seam a better option in games, and worked on keeping his wind-up more quiet.
Velocity-wise, Balcom-Miller won't overpower, but blowing it by hitters is the least of his worries.
"I'm not throwing it as hard as a lot of guys, and this year I have a different mindset," he said. "Last year I was 90-93 with my fastball and this year I'm around 88-92. I'm not trying to throw as hard, and I'm pitching to contact and letting the ball work."
There was plenty of contact against the 23-year-old righty in last Tuesday's game against the New York Yankees Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, but most of it was on the ground. Balcom-Miller gave up one run on three hits and three walks, while also striking out three to earn the win and help Portland get their first victory of 2012.
He threw 12 ground balls out of the 21 hitters he faced, including two inning-ending double plays, with one coming in the bottom of the sixth.
"Chris is a guy who's induced a lot of ground ball contact in his first few starts. He's been very efficient," Boles said. "His first outing he went five innings and he was around 48 to 50 pitches. He's putting the ball in play early which is something that always helps."
Along with a sinking two-seamer and a four-seam fastball, Balcom-Miller throws a solid changeup, and a slider that can do some damage when he says, "it's on." One thing that has stood out for Boles and his staff so far is Balcom-Miller's ability to keep opposing hitters honest on the base paths.
"He does a great job as far as holding runners, and he maintains his stuff from the stretch very well," Boles said.
Balcom-Miller mentioned he shook off Sea Dogs' catcher Dan Butler, "maybe twice," in the game against Trenton, saying that he had full trust in Butler to call the right pitches – which were mostly fastballs – and in his defense to make plays behind him.
"Our catchers are experienced guys and know how to catch games so I trust what they call, and our defense has been playing great," he said.
Right now, Balcom-Miller is pleased with the way he's pitching and is just trying to stay consistent and focus on one game, and one pitch at a time.
"That fifth inning in the Trenton game could've been big for them, but I got myself out of it and I was happy with that," he said. "I'm just focused on erasing that big inning and having as many quality starts as possible."
"He's a guy who comes ready to play everyday, whether he's pitching or not," Boles said. "He's a plus to have in this clubhouse."
PORTLAND, ME - It hasn't always been easy for Chris Balcom-Miller to maintain his composure on the mound. The Sea Dogs' righthander, who was acquired by the Red Sox from the Colorado Rockies in a deal for pitcher Manny Delcarmen in Aug. 2010, and who is in his first full season with Portland after being called up in May of last year, has had a tendency to force things in the past.
Balcom-Miller Slowing Things Down
Chris Balcom-Miller let the game dictate the tempo to him last year a little bit; not this year.
Portland Beat Writer
Balcom-Miller goes again on Sunday
Apr 14, 2012