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Minor league baseball: Rock Falls native shining of late in double-A

Blair turning corner

Rock Falls graduate and Springfield Cardinals pitcher Seth Blair has been sharp of late. He attributes that to improved mental focus leading into games.
Rock Falls graduate and Springfield Cardinals pitcher Seth Blair has been sharp of late. He attributes that to improved mental focus leading into games.

Seth Blair and Kevin Siegrist were Springfield Cardinals roommates to start the season. Now, Siegrist is a St. Louis Cardinal.

“When all the sudden your roommate is pitching on TV, it kind of motivates you,” said Blair, a 2007 Rock Falls High School graduate in his third pro season.

While Blair’s first two seasons and the early portion of his third did not go according to plan, he has been solid of late.

Blair boasts an ERA of 2.43 over his last five outings. Overall, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander is 3-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 15 games, 14 of them starts.

“It was all about getting my confidence back,” Blair said. “A lot of it has to do with getting more experience and getting out there consistently.”

Blair spent his first pro season with the Quad Cities River Bandits of Davenport, Iowa, going 6-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 21 starts.

Last season, he pitched in just seven games between the Gulf Coast League and high-A Palm Beach (Fla.) and was 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA in a year shortened by a surgery to remove a tumor in the middle finger of his pitching hand.

During his 3-year career at Arizona State University, Blair pitched 54 1/3 innings, 77 innings and 90 innings. He worked 81 2/3 innings at Quad Cities in 2011 and just 19 2/3 innings last season.

He’s already thrown 78 2/3 innings this season in Missouri and threw 20 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Might St. Louis shut him down before long to protect him?

“I think I’ll definitely throw the whole season,” Blair said. “I don’t see any reason to be shut down. It’s not like it’s my first year out of college. I have to show I’m ready to throw a lot of innings.”

The main reason for his turnaround is no mystery to Blair.

“I’m focusing more on the mental preparation,” he said. “I’ve always had the physical skills. The difference between players at this level and the major league level is not skill, it’s what happens between your ears.”

Though Blair pitched at Arizona State for 3 years, the Texas League is an entirely different animal.

“Arizona is a lot drier,” he said. “The humidity down here is something else. Sometimes the sweat makes it hard to grip the ball.”

Siegrist isn’t Blair’s only former Springfield teammate on the St. Louis roster. There’s also relievers Keith Butler and Michael Blazek.

“It’s not as far away as everyone thinks,” Blair said.

Though Blair has shown marked improvement of late, he’s “still not where I want to be.”

That would be some 216 miles from Springfield at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

By the numbers

(Blair’s pro stats)

2011: 6-3, 5.29 ERA in 21 games, all starts for low-A Quad Cities

2012: 1-3, 4.58 ERA in 7 games, 6 starts for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and high-A Palm Beach

2013: 3-6, 4.81 ERA in 15 games, 14 starts for Double-A Springfield

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