The Interview Vault: Michael Main

main interview vault.jpgThe San Francisco Giants showed the world last year how far a young rotation can take you, riding the arms of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez past the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers on the way to the World Series title.  With eventual NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey emerging as their catcher of now, the Giants were able to move veteran backstop Bengie Molina to the Ranger team they’d face for the title in exchange for a bright young arm from the Texas system.

That arm is 2007 first-round pick and 2008 LumberKings right-hander Michael Main.  The DeLand, Florida native was moved along with right-hander Chris Ray in exchange for Molina’s services on July 1.  No question Molina’s expertise aided both staffs tremendously in 2010, and his bat proved pivotal for the Rangers against the Rays and Yankees in the playoffs.

Ray was a proven relief commodity and would go 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA over 28 relief appearances with the Giants, but Main can still be considered the key piece of the deal.  The second of Texas’s two first-round picks in 2007 (24th overall, seven spots after Rangers-turned-Mariners prospect Blake Beavan), Main entered last season as the #21 prospect in the Rangers’ system according to Baseball America despite relatively average career numbers (9-10, 4.39 ERA, 68 walks, 153 strikeouts and a .258 opponent average in 148 innings) and a propensity to miss time (he’s been through a rotator cuff injury in high school, cracked ribs in 2008 and a two-month bout with mononucleosis in 2009).

Last season, Main looked to be on track to stay healthy and enjoyed his best season since 2008 with Clinton (2-2, 2.58 in 10 starts), going 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA, 21 walks, 72 strikeouts and a .250 opponent average in 91 innings with high-A Bakersfield.

Then came the trade.

Main was already headed to double-A Frisco when the Rangers moved him, so the Giants didn’t interrupt his promotion as they sent him straight to double-A Richmond.  Who knows if it was a change in pitching philosophy, lingering jet lag from changing coasts or just jitters with a new organization, but his time as a Flying Squirrel wasn’t positive.  He went 0-3 with a 13.83 ERA and walked twice as many as he struck out (14 walks compared to seven K’s) over just five games before injuring his hip in late July and missing the rest of the season.

What does the future hold for Main?  It’s uncertain if the highly-touted athlete can finally shake free of the injury bug and find the 96-97 mph fastball and power curveball that got him drafted so highly.  The Giants will certainly give him time to do both, probably inviting him to Major League camp before sending him back to Richmond for a full season.

While we wait to see what unfolds for the man we used to call “The Main Event”, let’s revisit the good old days in Clinton when he was part of a rotation that featured Beavan, Ryan Tatusko (also traded by the Rangers in 2010 to the Washington Nationals) and Michael Kirkman.  

The right-hander arrived from the AZL near the start of July, replacing right-hander Neftali Feliz, who jumped two levels to double-A Frisco.  Main really never encountered trouble over his 10 starts with the LumberKings, stifling opponents to a .228 average while never allowing more than three earned runs in any of his outings.  His signature start came on July 31 against South Bend when he worked six innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, walked none and struck out four.

My featured interview with him took place after his first Clinton start in West Michigan on July 10, a 4.2-inning effort in which he scattered seven hits and allowed just a run in a no-decision (a 6-1 LumberKings’ win).  We discussed the start, his fastball/curveball/change arsenal, rehabbing the fractured rib, teaming up fellow first-rounder Beavan in the rotation, learning to pitch under pressure while on the national stage with Team USA, his bat and more. 

Listen: 
Michael Main, Following First Start (2008).mp3

That’s all for The LumberBlog before the Christmas holiday, but keep an eye out for another entry of “The Interview Vault” on Tuesday, January 4.  Until then, happy holidays!

-DL 

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