AFL Spotlight: Nick Maronde
The “AFL Spotlight” is a weekly feature piece on a player from the Cleveland Indians farm system that is participating in the Arizona Fall League. League play wraps up on November 15th. Here are the previous 2014 spotlight pieces on other players: Grant Sides and Louis Head
Back on July 12th the Indians made a small trade to acquire left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde from the Angels for cash. It was not a headline making trade, but it is one that could help the Indians pitching depth in 2015.
Maronde, 25, struggled last season with the Angels. Prior to the trade he went 0-0 with a 12.79 ERA in 11 appearances in the big leagues, and in 6.1 innings allowed 12 hits, seven walks and had seven strikeouts. He also made 18 appearances at three different levels of the Angels minor league system going 0-0 with a 10.50 ERA (18.0 IP, 17 H, 4 HR, 30 BB, 24 K).
“I started off the year well, but I hit a rough patch where I didn’t do so well,” Maronde said. “I ended up getting traded during that rough patch, and when I came to the Indians I worked with [minor league pitching coordinator] Ruben Niebla and the short season pitching coaches. I felt like I got back on track and throwing the ball well. I like the progress and feel like I am going in the right direction so I am excited about that.”
After bottoming out with his performance with the Angels last season, Maronde regrouped with the Indians. The Indians had him spend a few weeks in Arizona to work on a few delivery adjustments they felt could help him command the baseball better, and after some time there they slowly built him back up sending him to brief stops at Short-A Mahoning Valley (3 GS, 9.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 8 K), then Double-A Akron (2 GS, 8.0 IP, 19 H, 12 R/11 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 9 K) and then Triple-A Columbus (1 GS, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K).
In total Maronde made six appearances with the Indians affiliates and totaled 23.0 innings and allowed 25 hits, two homers, 13 R (12 ER), four walks and had 25 strikeouts. While his 4.79 ERA was not all that impressive, it was the return of his command as he had a very good 1.5 BB/9, 9.8 K/9 and 6.25 K/BB ratio. While the sample size is small, those are some impressive numbers considering his performance earlier in the year when he had an astounding 13.7 BB/9 in the Angels organization.
“It was a little mechanical thing with my timing; I just wasn’t the same,” Maronde noted about his command issues. “I tried to do some new stuff that didn’t take and I kind of got away from what I do. 2012 has probably been my best year as a pro so far, and I feel like I am back on track towards that. I am throwing the ball about the same way and I am locating the ball. I feel like the trade and fresh start has helped me take a leap forward as far as progress to get back to where I was.”
In somewhat of a surprise, upon acquiring Maronde the Indians immediately worked to extend him out as a starter. That is the role they view him helping them the most in 2015 as a depth starter in Triple-A. So far that is looking like a good decision as he responded well to the role change with the improved command and solid overall numbers.
“I had not started since 2012, so when I came over they wanted me to start again and I had to get built up and get my innings in,” Maronde said. “I would say by the end of the year I felt like I was built up and ready to go, and I was fortunate to go to Columbus and play in the playoffs. That was a lot of fun and a good experience.”
After being selected in the third round of the 2011 Draft out of the University of Florida, Maronde initially broke into the pros as a starter as 32 of his 34 appearances in the minors in 2011 and 2012 were as a starter. But he made he made it to the Major Leagues with the Angels as a reliever in 2012 and he was in that role up until the time he was traded to the Indians. While the bullpen is what provided the opportunity for him to get to the big leagues and the Indians now like him as a potential starting option, Maronde is fine with pitching in either role.
“I like them both for different reasons,” Maronde said. “As a starter you have your routine and get the ball every five days and the game is yours and you will go deep into the game. As a reliever, you get a chance to throw every day, which is a lot of fun. Also you get to pitch in high leverage situations, which is fun too. I think starting helped me get back with all the sides and extra work in order to get through the process and back to where I was.”
Out in the Arizona Fall League, Maronde has not enjoyed the late season success he had with the Indians minor league affiliates. He is 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA in seven appearances with the Peoria Javelinas, and in 9.2 innings has allowed 18 hits, one homer, four walks and has seven strikeouts. While he has struggled allowing a high amount of hits, he has continued the process of commanding the baseball better and avoiding walks.
“I just want to keep doing what I was doing and how I finished the year,” Maronde said about his expectations pitching in the AFL. “Just maintain that progress, be consistent and take it into spring training. I feel like I am in a good spot right now and am happy with how I am throwing the ball. I am commanding he ball and really have not walked a whole lot of guys after the trade. I have given up some hits, but that is part of the game and I can live with that. I feel I am throwing the ball better than the stat lines show. I feel like it all came together in Columbus. I feel like I am back to 2010-2012 where I am getting guys out and they are not taking great swings. I am really excited about the progress and looking forward to spring training trying to win a job.”
It was a little bit of a surprise to see Maronde assigned to the AFL as players with Major League experience typically are not sent there. He seemed to be more of a candidate to go pitch winter ball somewhere in the Caribbean, but the Indians opted to have him pitch close to home at their Goodyear complex so coaches could more easily pop in and assess his work and continue to work on fine tuning the adjustments they made to his mechanics and make sure he is making progress.
“Instead of playing winter ball, being here I can still stay in touch with Ruben,” Maronde said. “He can come out and see me, so it made more sense for me to stay here versus going out and playing winter ball in the Dominican or somewhere else.”
Once the AFL ends next weekend Maronde will return home to Kentucky to visit his family, though the homecoming will be brief as he will go back out to Arizona in early January to begin preparations for the 2015 season. He knows what is at stake next year.
“Cleveland has been a great organization to play for," Maronde said. "Everybody is upfront and very forthcoming. They treat you the right way. It has been a really easy transition. I am in a fortunate situation and I just have to take it and run with it now.”
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