Mark Blackmar said he is done expending the energy. Instead of overthinking every pitch, the 24-year old Ducks righthander is letting the hitters do the work — swinging at bad pitches, putting balls in play, and watching in frustration as those ball fail to escape the infield dirt.
“I’ve been throwing a lot of strikes and have had a good defense behind me. I’m letting the hitters get themselves out,” Blackmar said.
And for the most part, they have. Entering his start against the Sugar Land Skeeters Saturday night at Bethpage Ballpark, Blackmar was fourth in the Atlantic League in ERA (1.77). In his first seven starts (40 2/3 innings), he struck out 23, walked 12, pitched to a .185 batting average against, and allowed only eight runs.
“He’s been impressive since Day One,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “He keeps the ball down and throws a hard sinker. He throws a ‘heavy ball,‘ as we say in the baseball business.”
While the Texas-native doesn’t throw tremendously hard, topping out in the low 90s, his pitches act in ways that deceive the hitter.
“It seems like the ball’s being thrown harder because he has good late movement,” Baez said. “That’s what you look for in a lot of pitchers.”
Blackmar spent the first four years of his professional career in the Baltimore Orioles’ system. He and another minor leaguer, Miguel Chalas, were traded to the White Sox for current Met Alejandro De Aza in 2014. Blackmar spent last season in Double-A Birmingham and was released by the White Sox in March. He signed with the Ducks on April 5.
So far, Blackmar attributes his early success as a Duck to the at-the-ready nature of many of the league’s hitters.
“I have a lot of respect for all the hitters in this league,” Blackmar said. “ I think they’re a little more aggressive, which fits my pitching style. I’m not a power guy. If they’re more aggressive, they may hit my sinker into the ground or roll over it”
Ford on DL
Lew Ford missed his sixth consecutive game last night, nursing a hamstring injury that’s landed him on the disabled list. He is expected to return in one to two weeks, Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff said Friday night.
Ford’s .348 batting average ranked second in the Atlantic League after Friday’s games. He has 24 RBIs and five home runs in 36 games.
The Ducks struggled in his absence, losing all three games to the Lancaster Barnstormers this week and dropping the weekend-series opener to Sugar Land on Friday night.
“Their bats were just going,” Baez said, reflecting on the Lancaster series. “Once we scored a couple and got ahead early in the game, all of a sudden they dropped a three or four spot on us.”
After this Sunday’s series finale with Sugar Land and an off day tomorrow, the Ducks hit the road for three with the York Revolution, the best team in the Atlantic League and three with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs who, entering play last night, had the second-worst record in the Atlantic League.
The Ducks entered Saturday night’s game with Sugar Land one and a half games back of the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division first half standings. The expansion New Britain Bees, who split a four-game set with the Ducks last weekend, continue to hang around, 3 1⁄2 back of Somerset. The winner of the first half earns an automatic playoff berth.