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West working his way to Miami


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MESA, Ariz. -- It wasn't supposed to happen quite like this, but Sean West is just fine with the direction he's headed now. Back in the summer of 2005, West was one of five pitchers the Florida Marlins drafted in the first round. The sky, it seemed, was the limit, especially after a strong first full season in the Class A South Atlantic League.


Then the southpaw hit a roadblock. Shoulder surgery cost him all of 2007. When it was time to return, he felt he had taken several steps backward.


"I basically had to re-teach myself how to pitch after the injury," West said. "It took me a while to get back in the zone."


That first year after surgery is usually considered a success if a pitcher finishes healthy. West did more than that, posting a 2.41 ERA in just over 100 Florida State League innings. He would have led the circuit in ERA had he thrown enough innings.


The biggest reason for his success was that West took his rehab extremely seriously and came to camp last spring in the best shape of his life.


"I had a lot of proving to do," he said. "The first thing I could do is come into camp in really good shape. My conditioning was huge. I was able to pitch later into games, my velocity was there for the whole game.


"I wanted to put up some numbers. I was in good shape and was ready to go. My first objective was to be healthy, my second was to put up numbers."


The one number he wasn't thrilled with this season was 60. That's how many walks the 6-foot-8 southpaw issued with Class A Advanced Jupiter. So he's here, pitching with the Mesa Solar Sox, trying to correct that flaw.


"I'm working on consistency," West said. "I had a lot of walks. My off-speed has been really good, but my fastball has been a little off. The off-speed stuff keeps my mechanics in check.


"I'm tweaking my mechanics a little, going with an old-fashioned, over-the-head windup. It adds some flair, but it's helping me slow everything down and allowing me to get my arm through better. Now I'm missing down in the zone rather than leaving it up."


It's still a work in progress as West owns a 6.75 ERA in four AFL starts, walking eight in 12 innings. His best moment actually came in relief, but you won't find it reflected in the official stats.


On Oct. 24, West participated in the Rising Stars Showcase. Braves prospect Tommy Hanson started and struck out seven over three hitless innings. Not to be outdone, West came on in the fourth and struck out the side, leaving more than one scout impressed.


West looked so good, he'd better be careful or someone might get the idea that the bullpen suits him.


"I was out there with a bunch of bullpen guys," West said. "I didn't know when to get going, when to start stretching. I had [Cubs reliever] Rocky Roquet out there, giving me the down-low on being a bullpen guy.


"I was throwing 94-97 mph. It was fun, but I would definitely like to continue my career as a starter."


That appears to be the Marlins' plan. West is a step or two behind some of the others from that '05 class, like Chris Volstad and Ryan Tucker, both of whom reached the big leagues this year.


But West shortened his new learning curve pretty quickly during the regular season and the work he's putting in during his AFL stint is likely to help speed things along as well.


"Going into Spring Training, I don't know if I'll be in big league camp," West said. "I'll try to earn a spot, but realistically, I'll probably be in Double-A since I haven't faced that level of hitters too much. But I'm a few good outings away from the big leagues."



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