Nick Maronde looking for a fresh start with the Tribe
After struggling in LA, left-hander getting back on track in Cleveland
When it comes to experience and quality of teammates, Nick Maronde has had no shortage of either in his collegiate and pro baseball career up to this point. After appearing in not one, but two College World Series tournaments with the University of Florida, the left-hander was drafted by the Angels in 2011 and worked his way up to the point where he spent parts of three major league seasons in Anaheim with the likes of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols.
"Out in LA there’s a bunch of superstars and a bunch of guys who have done a lot for the game," Maronde reminisced, "So it was really cool and a real blessing for me to be around those guys. I learned a lot and I wish them all the best.”
Nick Maronde became the latest player to trade his halo for a block "C" or vice-versa this season as the Indians and Angels have now had multiple personnel change squads this year, including Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and, most recently, J.B. Schuck. Maronde was acquired from the Halos back in mid-July for cash considerations.
“I’m really excited to be over here [in Cleveland] and hopefully get a chance to get up there," the southpaw explained, "They’re a great organization. Very welcoming, very forthcoming on what their plans are, you couldn’t be in a better situation. Of course, my parents live in Lexington, which is about six hours south, so it’s closer to home for them."
John Nicholas Maronde was born September 5th, 1989 in Lexington, Kentucky, although he spent part of his childhood living in Florida. He grew up a Braves fan and an admirer of some of the game's great southpaw hurlers.
"I lived in Orlando when I was a kid and the Braves spring training was right there, so I was a big fan of them," said Maronde, "And then I liked Johan Santana and Randy Johnson a lot. I tried to watch those guys whenever I could. Being left-handed, those guys were two pitchers I looked up to.”
The left-hander attended high school at Lexington Catholic High School, which also produced current big league outfielder Ben Revere. During his sophomore year, he helped pitch his team to a state championship while drawing interest from major league scouts. In 2008, Maronde was selected in the 43rd round by Oakland, but he elected instead to pursue a college education at the University of Florida.
"I really wanted to go play for the Gators and get the college experience and kind of develop as a player, Maronde explained, "So it was nice to be recognized and get drafted that year, but I was pretty dead set on going to Florida."
After three years in Gainesville, Maronde had the unique opportunity to appear in two College World Series with the Gators and made it all the way to the finals against defending champion South Carolina in 2011. Unfortunately, they were unable to dethrone the Gamecocks as they took their second straight title.
“I was fortunate to go twice," Maronde said, "We got to the championship the second time, which was a lot of fun. Just to be able to go out there and get the playoff atmosphere, you’ve got to win every game in college to be able to advance, so I learned a lot from that. It was a great experience and I think it made the transition to pro ball a little easier for me.”
Later in 2011, Maronde was selected in the third round of the draft by the Angels. He spent the remainder of the season in Arizona Rookie League going 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 starts. The next season, he made it up to the AA level in Arkansas before the Angels summoned him to make his major league debut. He faced one batter against the Mariners in his debut and struck him out on three pitches.
“That’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid to come into pro ball and the dream is to make it to the big leagues," said Maronde, "I felt like after three years of college, I was ready to make that jump. I was fortunate enough to be drafted by the Angels. I was a reliever in college and I started with them for about six months and then got called up as a reliever, so it was a great situation to be in for myself.”
The left-hander would appear in 12 games out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2012 allowing only one earned run in six inning of work while walking three and striking out seven. His fortunes would soon change, however, as he would begin to struggle on the mound posting 9.77 ERA in the majors between 2013 and 2014. The Indians saw something they liked in the left-hander, though, as they would acquire him for cash considerations in July of this season.
Since the trade, Maronde has spent time in single-A Mahoning Valley, AA Akron and AAA Columbus. During his brief time with the RubberDucks, pitching coach Jeff Harris got a good sense of what the southpaw's issues were and what he was working on to correct them.
“He’s had a good track record," Harris explained, "He’s just gone through what everybody goes through once in a while. He hits a rough patch and everything gets a little out of whack. Apparently he struggled with his command for a little bit, but I don’t see that at all from him. What he’s doing now is he’s working ahead well. He’s almost throwing too many strikes now where when he gets ahead, expanding the zone has given him some trouble."
Maronde feels like a change of scenery has helped and that with coaching from the Indians, he is on his way to finding his comfort zone again on the mound.
"I feel like I’m back on track where I need to be," Maronde said, "I’m locating the ball, throwing strikes, and attacking guys like I used to, so I’m happy about that.”
The 25-year-old has now made six appearances for three affilliates since coming to the Indians and has gone 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He has allowed 12 earned runs on 25 hits in 23 innings of work, but he has also walked only four batters and struck out 25 in that span. His most recent start in Columbus was, by far, his best since coming to the organization as he shut out Toledo over six innings on only two hits and a walk while fanning eight Mudhens.
While Maronde has been a reliever in college and most of his time in pro ball, the Indians' plan for the time being is to have him work as a starter within the organization, something he hasn't done on a regular basis since 2012. Jeff Harris believes he's capable of starting, but can be a versatile pitching option for the Tribe.
“He obviously has his secondary stuff," Harris explained, "He has a three-pitch mix to start and he has the durability. It seems like his delivery is repeatable. He gets effortless extension out front. It just depends on what role they would be needing him to fill in the big leagues. I think he’s a guy who could go either way.”
As for Maronde, he's not worried about transitioning back to a role he hasn't been in for a while as long as it continues to help him get back on track to becoming an effective pitcher again.
“Starting for now is kind of the plan in order to get innings because I was slumping pretty bad this past year," Maronde admitted, "But I think I’ve turned it around since coming over here. I’ve worked out a few kinks. I’ve gotten a lot of help from the Indians. Starting right now, that’s the route we’re taking and we’ll go from there.”
Of course, being a guy who can work both as a starter and a reliever as well as being left-handed certainly should carry some weight as far as value and we shall see if the Indians feel like Maronde is worth investing in beyond this season.
“He’s just a solid kid," said Jeff Harris, "A professional through and through and a great competitor. You can kind of get the sense of that from talking to him, but when you see him in action, he really competes well. That’s probably the thing I love about him most is that he just keeps going after hitters. He really pitches well off his fastball and he’s got good secondary stuff. Just a solid all-around left-handed pitcher.”
As for Maronde, himself, he has is priorities straight. Just continue working out the issues with his delivery and work his way back to the show one step at a time.
“Just go out there and compete," Maronde explained, "keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully get back to the big leagues and help that team win. It’s a great situation and an opportunity I have to run with now.”
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.