THE TRANSITION from college to the professional level at in any sport can be daunting. Making the transition in baseball is even tougher. Players have no spring training after they are drafted. They go right from the college game to playing professionally in just weeks.
For lefthander Matt Imhof, a 2014 second-round selection by the Phillies, not much changed.
"The way I always look at it is baseball is baseball," Imhof said. "I'm still pitching 60 feet, 6 inches away."
The Hayward, Calif., native finished his college career with Cal Poly exactly 2 months ago today with a loss to Pepperdine in the NCAA tournament. He is already playing for low-Class A Lakewood, looking to keep his form that led him to a 10-4 college record, with a 2.45 ERA. He had a stellar career at Cal Poly, compiling a record of 18-7 over 3 years at a school he almost did not play for.
"I didn't actually have too many offers," Imhof said. "I thought I had a chance to go to Stanford. I talked with them, and that was kind of the school I wanted to go to. I ended up not being able to get in because of my grades. Kind of last-minute, in the January of my senior year, I went to a few prospect camps, and I pitched for Cal Poly once. They offered me a scholarship after that and I decided to go there."
Three years later, he is in the Phillies' minor league system, and on pace for a solid future. For the first time, Imhof can focus completely and totally on baseball.
"It hasn't been too bad," he said. "It is getting used to a daily routine. You are playing baseball every day. In college you have school and other stuff going on, but the transition hasn't been too bad."
With many college pitchers who have just been drafted, staying healthy is a concern as they close out the season. They are pitching more innings than they ever did at the college level. The Phillies are monitoring Imhof's innings, limiting him to five per start, as they are with many of their draft picks.
"They are emphasizing staying healthy," Imhof said. "I am getting used to the Phillies' workout program and stuff like that, making sure my arm feels good.
"My goal is to stay healthy and make every scheduled start," the 20-year-old added. "I want to continue to develop my off-speed pitches and get them as consistent as possible. I want to end this year on a good note with four or five solid starts and go into the offseason feeling good."
He has made two starts so far with Lakewood, totaling eight innings with a 3.38 ERA. His last outing, he went five innings and only gave up one run, tallying four strikeouts against Kannapolis. He is improving, with the help of the Phillies' pitching coaches.
At 6-5, 220 pounds, there is room to add muscle and improve the velocity on his fastball, which is already in the low 90s. That will come with time. What he is focusing on now is his offspeed pitches.
"Just consistency, especially with my offspeed pitches," Imhof said. "We made some tweaks with my breaking ball just to get it a little sharper, make it more consistent."
"I saw good composure," Lakewood manager Greg Legg said. "He has gone after the hitters. He has a good changeup, a good fastball. I was really impressed with his composure. The angle on his ball, his changeup and his command are all things I saw that are going to be really good."