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Michael Main’s first two full seasons of professional baseball have been anything but full. A sort of fluke rib injury limited the right-hander to just 10 starts at Single-A Clinton in 2008. The following season–this summer–Main was bothered by an unidentified sickness that left him weak all season and kept him to 58 innings pitched with High-A Bakersfield.
Before Main was shipped out of Bakersfield, he posted a 4-6 record with a paltry 7.33 earned-run average in 12 starts. He was extremely hittable [70 hits and 9 homers in 54 innings], he suddenly struggled with control [36 walks], and he wasn’t missing that many bats [45 strikeouts].
Perhaps more importantly, Main didn’t look like the same athlete on the mound. The 20-year-old’s formerly low-to-mid-90s velocity dipped into the upper-80s, and his curveball lost its bite. When Main wanted to reach back for extra, he simply didn’t have much in the tank.
After being diagnosed with an unidentified virus–which Main describes in detail below–the prospect returned home and waited to get healthy. Upon feeling better, Main went back to Arizona and notched two appearances in the AZL, where he fanned five batters in three scoreless innings.
With Main looking as good as ever, the Rangers chose to send the Florida native back to Bakersfield for the stretch drive, where he worked out of the bullpen. Main worked between 92-94 mph with the Blaze, and he tossed six scoreless innings over three appearances. In those games, he gave up just two hits while walking one and striking out seven.
Main has spent the past month pitching in games for the Rangers’ Advanced Instructional League club. He’ll return home at the end of the week to begin resting and preparing for a hopefully healthy 2010 campaign.
Jason Cole: Obviously there’s a lot to talk about with you this year. I want to go back to the sickness. When was it that you began feeling sick? When did you notice that something wasn’t right?
Michael Main: The last week I was in Bakersfield was when everything kind of came together. It started off–I came in and had a swollen lymph node and I had almost a heartburn sensation in my stomach. I was thinking, ‘I’ll give it a couple of days and maybe it’ll go away.’
Then we had a drug test and, when I peed, my urine was an iced tea color. It was brown. It was pretty gross. So I knew right then that we needed to see the doctor. I wasn’t feeling well at all that day. I saw a doctor and he was like, ‘Yeah, we need to check this out.’
I went to the hospital that night and they did a bunch of bloodwork and stuff like that. They just decided to send me to Arizona from there, because I was in pretty bad shape. The rest of that series, I didn’t even leave the hotel room. I was here and there for meals. Then I came back here–that was on Friday, so I sat the whole weekend in the hotel room–and came out here Monday and we got a whole bunch of results. I ended up doing about six rounds of bloodwork and a couple of abdominal scans.
They never really found out what it was. They said it was just kind of an unidentified viral infection of my liver. What they were thinking was–just based upon the results and the signs that I showed–that I’d probably had this sometime probably close to January. That’s what the doctors were thinking. They were thinking it was probably affecting me this whole season.
I don’t want to have that sound like an excuse or anything, but that’s just what they were thinking on it. And during Spring Training I saw the doctor a couple of times because I was just not feeling real well.
I think, now that I’m healthy, I can definitely feel a difference. My body feels strong. I feel like it just has so much more energy, just thinking back on the year. It was a dull sensation.
Cole: Early in the year, when you said you didn’t have much energy, was it noticeable at the time or did you kind of get accustomed to it to where it didn’t seem like an issue?
Main: I think I was feeling like that every day and I just kind of came accustomed to it a little bit. But I mean, now, after I got healthy and took that two months off and started working out, I could definitely tell a complete turnaround that there was something wrong.
Cole: How many doctors did you go to looking for an answer to what exactly the issue was?
Main: We went through the doctors out here. There was one primary doctor that was kind of heading the case here. But I saw a couple of different doctors, a couple different bloodwork people. I kind of got ideas from every different person, but they all turned it into this guy and he made the final decision on it. It’s kind of crazy to think that this day in age, with all the modern science that we have, that there is still stuff out there that we don’t know what it is.
Cole: How long were you back at home after everything?
Main: I got here around June 12 I think–somewhere around there. And then I didn’t leave here until July 15. So that was pretty much seeing doctors every other day or every couple of days. I went home on July 15 and then came back here August 10. I got a little bit of time in Florida–just hanging out and working out a little bit towards the beginning of August.
Cole: Anyone who has seen you play knows you’re obviously a competitor, and obviously nobody wants to be away from the team or lose as much time as you did. How difficult was that to be sitting at home and just having to wait it out?
Main: It’s tough. It’s kind of like the rib injury I had the year before. It’s just a lot of sitting around and not doing anything. It kind of kills me. I want to be out there and playing, but I knew at the same time that I had to get healthy. We were taking every precaution for me to get healthy.
Cole: When you got back here to Arizona, you started pitching in games almost right away, didn’t you?
Main: Yeah. I started working out at home in the beginning of August. I was throwing a little bit. It didn’t really take me that long to get back into shape. Conditioning-wise, I was a little bit out of shape, but sitting on the couch for two months will do that. It didn’t take me that long for my arm to get back in shape.
We were originally thinking about maybe getting some appearances in the AZL, and I ended up getting two. I went a little bit ahead of schedule, but everything felt good and I just continued from there.
Cole: You pitched pretty well in those two AZL appearances, and then you went back to Bakersfield and pitched well again. It was like the first part of the season never happened. What was the key to turning that around? Was it simply being healthy like you had in the past?
Main: Yeah. I felt just a lot healthier and I felt like my strength was there. To be honest, like I said, it was kind of a dull sensation. I felt like, on the mound, I could actually feel what I was doing a little bit more. It was just weird. It felt like I could make those adjustments and I felt like my strength was there, which was obviously a good feeling.
Cole: You’ve been out here pitching at instructs. Have you just been with the advanced team?
Main: Yeah. I threw the first game of the Instructional League, but the Advanced League hadn’t started yet. It was just kind of kicking it off a little bit. But other than that, I’ve just been with the Advanced League.
Cole: How do you feel it’s going for you so far?
Main: I feel like it’s going good. I had a couple of good outings and a couple of shaky outings. It’s a learning process. The Advanced League is definitely good. It is definitely hitters that I saw in Bakersfield and that will be at a little more advanced level. I think it is really good–the league, I mean–as far as advancing and learning a little bit more.
Cole: Tell me what kind of things you’ve been focusing on out here. Are you working on anything mechanically or with a pitch?
Main: Me and the pitching coaches–I’ve actually been working on cleaning up my delivery a little bit, finding the balance point, and just kind of making everything more fluid. Just a couple of mechanical things–getting on top of the baseball. Just some things that are going to help me because I feel like I have a pretty good base now. I’m just trying to refine things a little bit.
Cole: When you weren’t feeling well early in the year, was that causing you to fall into any bad habits on the mound?
Main: Not really, not really. I just wasn’t pitching real well.
Cole: After losing a lot of this season, I’m sure you’re getting your eyes set on a big 2010 campaign. Do you have any expectations yet?
Main: I’m planning on going home–taking a little time off but getting after it this offseason. I’m trying to come in really good shape. Hopefully I’m over all the injuries and crazy illnesses. Something like that, I really couldn’t control.
But I want to come in and try to put myself in the best position to make it through the whole year. I think that’s a huge key for me next year–making it through the whole year injury and sickness-free. That’s probably the primary goal of mine.
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