Pro Hogs:

Former Hogs face off in All-Star game

By: Todd Pearce
Published: Sunday, June 15, 2014
Ryne Stanek recorded his first professional win Monday.
Photo by Sam Dykstra
Ryne Stanek recorded his first professional win Monday.

— Two former Arkansas Razorbacks will pitch on opposite sides of the Class A Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich.

Ryne Stanek will represent the Bowling Green Hot Rods (A Rays) on the East team, while former teammate and Forrest City native Barrett Astin of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A Brewers) will play for the West.

Astin, who is 5-3 this season with a 4.52 ERA, downplayed his All-Star selection.

“I’m doing really pretty average,” Astin said. “Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m doing. I’m just trying to focus on getting better as a pitcher, get some wins and help the team make a push for the playoffs.”

Timber Rattlers Manager and former Razorback Matt Erickson, who was a freshman All-American in 1995 and still holds the Razorbacks’ record for best career batting average (.377), said he could tell Astin benefited from his time at Arkansas.

“He’s one of our more mature guys,” Erickson said. “He’s got a firm belief in preparation and he’s very consistent. He doesn’t get too high or too low and doesn’t show a lot of emotion. There are all different types of personalities on this team, but he’s got a professional state of mind. He’s done a nice job of staying healthy and doing what he can do to get better and putting the team in a position to win.”

Astin said Erickson’s knowledge as a hitter has helped a key aspect in his development.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is reading hitters, so he’s good about telling me what to look for in certain situations,” Astin said.

“We talk a lot about team defense,” Erickson countered. “We talk about attacking the strike zone early and letting the defense play behind you. That gives a pitcher a better chance of a low pitch count and lasting longer in games.”

Stanek, who missed the first month of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery, is 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA this season.

“Ryne worked really hard at his rehab,” Bowling Green pitching coach Bill Moloney told Curt Rallo of earlier this month. “I don’t see any changes in the mechanics from when he signed. I give him credit for working hard and coming back.”

Stanek has won each of his last three starts, allowing 2 runs on 12 hits with 4 walks and 15 strikeouts in 18 innings. He attributed his success to better command of his fastball and development of his off-speed pitches.

“My changeup is a work in progress,” Stanek said. “It’s good at times, and other times, I get a little under it. It’s becoming a pretty good pitch that I’ve used a lot. My curveball, which I didn’t use a lot in college, has turned into a better pitch now that I’ve thrown it a lot. That’s huge, because now I have a really good mix of pitches.”

That mix of pitches has kept hitters guessing, which is why he’s allowed only 10 walks this season.

“It just happened,” Stanek said about cutting down on walks in which he had 103 his junior season at Arkansas. “The ball is coming out better. I have a better feel for what I’m doing, which is nice. I don’t really think about it. I don’t try to be too fine. In college, I was always trying to be perfect. Here, I try to execute my pitch, instead of being perfect and trying to nibble instead of just attacking.”

Astin said he hasn’t thought much about his All-Star game appearance, but said the break in the schedule will be a good thing.

“We go at it for six months and only get about 10 days off, so it will be good to step away,” Astin said. “It will be good to talk to Stanek and just have a good time while I’m there.”