Michael Main was drafted 24th overall in the 2007 amateur draft out of DeLand, Florida. The highly touted athlete quickly signed with the Texas Rangers and logged 12.2 innings in the Arizona Rookie League before finishing out the year pitching for the short-season Spokane Indians of the Northwest League.
It was clear heading into the '08 season that Main was a player ready to take a huge step forward. Unfortunately, a rib injury suffered in spring training derailed the start of what should have been his breakout season. Main recovered in extended spring training until once again starting the season in the Arizona Rookie League, where he made three starts. After working off some of the rust, Main was promoted to the Low-A Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League, and despite an obvious lack of punch in his repertoire, still managed to strike out 50 hitters in only 45 innings.
His performance to end the year at Clinton set the stage for an eye-opening display in the Fall Instructional League that saw his fastball velocity creep back up to the mid-90s and his command improve across the board. Honestly, I'm not sure I would believe all the hype surrounding his FIL performance if I wasn't there to witness it firsthand. Main was simply the best pitcher in camp.
I recently had a chance to speak with Main about his now legendary (in my own mind) FIL performance, as well as his thoughts on being considered a top prospect. As acclaimed rockumentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi once said, "And I got that; I got more ... a lot more. But hey, enough of my yakkin'; whaddaya say? Let's boogie!"
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Q: Do you consider yourself a top prospect?
Main: Coming out of the draft last year I considered myself a top prospect. Since then, our organization has just exploded. We have so many guys, especially pitchers, that would be top-five prospects in most organizations. I think so many guys get overshadowed because of the depth we have.
Q: Does being considered a top prospect affect your drive or the pressure you put on yourself to live up to the hype?
Main: Not really. It’s a great honor, but at the same time I still have goals that I have set for myself, that I want to strive for and that I’ll continue to strive for.
Q: Let’s take a step back and go over your arsenal. Can you describe the pitches you throw?
Main: Four-seam fastball, change-up and curveball.
Q: I’ve read reports that mention you throw a slider as well. Is this true?
Q: Did you throw one [slider] in high school?
Q: Which pitch needs the most work?
Main: I’ve really been working on my change-up. My change-up is probably my third pitch right now, but it’s starting to develop a little bit. That’s a pitch that will really help me get outs at the upper levels. A really good change-up isalmost a requirement.
Q: Take me through your approach on the mound. What is going on in your mind after you get the sign?
Main: When I’m out there I’m all about attack. That is what our organization preaches. You really want to go after hitters. We pitch to contact, not away from it. That’s where you start getting into trouble. That’s where I got in trouble before, trying to be too fine, trying to get hitters to chase. When you go out there to attack hitters, they're either going to get themselves out or you're going to be pounding the zone with strikes. That’s the main thing I’m thinking when I’m out there: to be aggressive and attack.
Q: When did you realize that playing baseball for a living could be a reality?
Main: Probably coming into high school. It’s the only thing I’ve really ever wanted to do. When people would ask me that question, I would always tell them that I wanted to be a baseball player. Coming into high school I thought I could really make a run at this thing. I started developing and becoming a pretty good player. That is when everything started to click and I thought I could really do this.
Q: Let’s go back to Draft Day 2007. Was your decision to turn pro based on your expected draft position? Was turning down the signing bonus and going to school ever an option? If so, what school did you have in mind?
Main: After draft day, my decision was pretty clear that I was going to sign. I did have a full ride to Florida State, and I was a pretty good student, so I wasn’t afraid to honor that at all if everything wasn’t right in the draft. Luckily, everything went well. I had a really good feeling that day. All day.
Q: Do you miss being a position player?
Main: Not much. I’ve always loved pitching. I kind of miss playing out in the outfield, but hitting was always a little bit of a struggle for me. It would take a lot more time and effort on my end to make it as a hitter. I don’t think I was nearly as developed as a hitter as I was a pitcher coming out of high school.
Q: What part of your game separates you from other prospects?
Main: I can’t really speak for anybody else, but I know that I have a strong desire to work hard. I go out there everyday and I want to learn. I listen to all the coaches, and I take in what they say and really try to apply it to what I do. I just go out there and really focus on what I’m trying to do and what I’m trying to achieve. Throughout the season, hitters are out there making adjustments and getting better, so I need to make adjustments and learn as well.
Q: What are some of your goals for the ’09 season?
Main: My first goal is to stay healthy throughout the entire season. Last season I struggled with that a little bit. I was hurt coming out of spring training and I stayed in extended [spring training] for a while. My main goal is to be healthy all year.
Hopefully I break out at [High-A] Bakersfield. I want to continue with the things I learned this year. The mental side of my game this year has increased a ton. Coming out of high school I was able to get hitters out with just stuff, but here you really have to be smart. The mental side of the game is incredible.
It was also nice playing in the playoffs with Clinton. We were out in the first series, but it would be nice to get a championship. That’s another goal.
Q: What adjustments did you make this fall at instructs that had such a positive effect on your pitching performance?
Main: Adair [minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair] and I reconstructed my whole wind-up, and worked on pitching more athletically. Once we did that, everything just started to click. It just started to come alive a little bit, and it felt really good.
Q: Any friendly competition between you and fellow first-rounders Blake Beavan and Neil Ramirez?
Main: Not really. Everybody just goes out there to do their best and improve and develop their skills. It’s all just working towards bettering the Rangers organization and getting up to the big leagues. Hopefully one day we will all be on the same team winning the World Series together.
Q: Recently, Nolan Ryan stressed the importance of conditioning in pitchers. How will this new organizational philosophy affect your off-season routine?
Main: They set up an off-season program for everybody, butI think we are going to see a lot of changes going into next year. At instructs, he [Ryan] was very adamant about it and he is definitely someone that commands respects. He is just an unbelievable person.
Q: Who has the best arm you have seen in the system? Better yet, who is your favorite pitcher to watch?
Main: Well, the two obvious answers are [Neftali] Feliz and [Derek] Holland. Feliz is just ridiculously good. I played with Holland last season at Spokane and he was topping out at 93-94 [miles per hour], and this season he just exploded. Unbelievable.
Personally, my favorite guy to watch pitch is Kenny [Kennil] Gomez. Of all the guys in the organization, he is my favorite guy to watch.
Q: Don't you love the fact that he [Gomez] can throw with both arms?
Main: Haha, yeah; it's impressive. He just pitches so loose and his arm is so smooth. He gets amazing action.
Q: What Major League pitcher makes you sit up and take notice?
Main: I don’t know if there’s one exact guy. I mean, you see electric guys all the time. Somebody like Zach Greinke is a guy I’d like to pitch like. He’s a little wild at times, but he has power stuff. Cole Hamels was impressive in the World Series this year, and Josh Beckett last year, butthose guys are just freaks that everybody looks up to. There are just certain guys that everybody looks up to, even though they might not fit your style or might not be comparable to you. You just look up and say, “That would be somebody nice to pitch like.”
Q: Do you ever feel like baseball is a job?
Main: Yeah, especially during the season when you’re up at the field everyday. You get it all the time from people who say, “Ah, but you’re playing baseball for a living.” But it’s the same thing as getting up and going to work the same as they do. There are plenty of days when you don’t want to go to work today even though it’s just going up to the field. It’s the same thing that people face with regular jobs, granted that you are playing baseball, so you aren’t going to hear any complaints from me. You do face a lot of the same routines that you get into with a regular job. But, like I said, I’m not one to be complaining about it.
Q: Finally, what is it about your character that makes people so willing to champion you as a person?
Main: I don’t know. I guess it has to do with my upbringing. My parents have always taught me to be respectful and honest to people, and that’s just how I’ve always lived my life. I go out and I work hard for the things I want to achieve, and I think I do it in a respectful way. I just go out and work hard. I don’t go out to showboat. I just try to do the best that I can to achieve excellence.
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Special thanks to the Main family.